AGENTS had expected Friday's Deniliquin store sale to be tough, with one experienced vendor saying the market was now paying "drought prices" as buyers hold off for rain.
Only top-quality sheep sold to or above agents' expectations.
Landmark Deniliquin's Bill O'Brien said he expected it to be a tough sale, with the prices for store lambs exceeding those expectations and anything "with a bit of cover" attracting more interest.
"This sort of sums up our season, the condition the lambs are on… people can see there is money to be made, but there's a lack of feed," he said.
"Here last week (at another store sale) we didn't have the Wimmera and Mallee buyers in the strength they usually are, and it was the same this week."
While the dry conditions meant there were "no sheep going home with vendors", Mr O'Brien said the market could change quickly.
"One rain and things would turn around overnight," he said.
Fattening lambs topped at $77.50 a head for 161 May-June-drop Dohne-Merinos from Morotai, Deniliquin, NSW.
The largest pen of Studleigh May-June-drop lambs sold to $66, as did a pen of 130 White Suffolk- Merino wether lambs from WF&BC Ryan, Curragh, Hay, NSW, who sold another pen of 311 wethers to $64, and averaged $63.33 over three pens for their June/July-drop ewes, with a top of $65.
While there were a number of other pens that sold above $60, the majority were in the $32-$52 range.
Shorn 2012-drop Merino wethers sold to $76.50, with the top price paid by Woodwards for 555 April/May-drop wethers from Daisy Plains, Booligal, NSW. A second pen of 405 sold to $55.
Yerrinbool, Maude, NSW, received $67 for each of 406 April-May drop wethers, bought by Landmark Ballarat, with seconds to $46.
A pen of 423 June-July-drop, Woodpark-bld wethers from Irroy, Conargo, NSW, made $60 sold to ALC, with seconds to $55.50.
The Rosebank, Moulamein, NSW, received $52 for their 390 April-May-drop wethers, but most of the large-sized pens fell in the $36-$49 range.
The unshorn 2012-drop Merino wethers did not reach the same peaks as their shorn brothers, with the top-price of $59.50 paid by Elders Wycheproof for the pen of 495 wethers from Cooneen, Booroorban, with a second pen to $48 for an average of $53.75.
Mungarah Park wethers sold to $54 to Landmark Swan Hill, while volume vendors Spring Plains, Wanganella, sold 590 to $47.50 to Rodwells Kilmore, with an average of $39.67 for their 1513 unshorn wethers.
The top dollars for the 2011-drop Merino wethers were $66 for 219 September-shorn, Yanco-bld and bred sheep owned by S Barnes.
Mr Andrews blamed subdued buyer interest on a lack of feed across a wide area in the south-eastern States, as well as the bushfires, and said there was profit to be made for those able to purchase.
"There were lots of opportunities to make a dollar if you were willing to stick your neck out and have a go," he said.
Elders Deniliquin auctioneer Jason Andrews said it was a tough market, but the sale proved quality sheep would make money if well-presented.
"Top-quality sheep sold to about what I thought, (while) the plainer quality were below what I thought - (they) were tough to move," he said.