Merino ewes sold to a top price of $295 a head at Bendigo on Friday in what one agent described as a "tough going market".
About 5800 Merino mixed-aged ewes and wethers were offered at the special spring sale as restockers from across central Victoria underpinned the market.
A small buying fraternity caused a handful of pens to be passed in at auction, as attendees who had not received at least their first coronavirus vaccination were prevented from entering the saleyards.
Nutrien Bendigo livestock manager Nick Byrne said the better end of ewes sold to reasonable prices despite the small buying gallery.
"The whole market in general, not just this sale today, has tightened up in the last eight to 10 days," he said.
"It's a little bit hard to explain given the amount of feed around our country and the prices of lamb and mutton."
Most of the sheep sold were bought by clients within a 100-kilometre radius of Bendigo, with some pens bought by clients as far as Kilmore and Kyneton.
"The better sheep sold well but the secondary sheep, and there's quite a few of them here, were hard to move," Mr Byrne said.
FP Nevins & Co livestock agent Luke Nevins, Bendigo, said buyers who invested in sheep at the sale would be rewarded in the months to follow.
"It was very tough going in places," he said.
"The better bred sheep at the top end of the market made what they should have made but were probably still under some of the better Riverina sales.
"Once you got of those better lines of sheep, things got really tough really quickly."
Another factor for the reduced yarding was due to the "exceptional" seasonal conditions across the district, leading producers to hold onto their stock for longer.
"Some of the sheep that have come out of the south look a bit washed out and need a bit of heat and sun on them but they'll do well for the people who bought them," Mr Nevins said.
"A lot of people are doing only a light cull and we're in a bit of a blue ribbon area here for feed at the moment and that looks to remain that way until at least Christmas."
The top-priced pen of the sale was consigned by JE & RL Knight, Axedale, who sold 126 Merino ewes, June/July 2020-drop, Moorundie blood, for $295.
The Knights also sold a second pen of 114 Merino ewes for $292.
Both pens were bought by Moolort cropping and sheep farmer Cam Rinald who said the ewes would be joined to White Suffolk rams in November.
The first pen of the sale, offered by Greg and Leann Holmberg, West Point, Elmore, was passed in at auction for $290.
Mr Holmberg said he had hoped for a higher price for the pen of 163 Merino ewes, April/May 2020-drop, featuring Pooginook blood, after a "ripping" season due to mild weather and regular rain.
P & T Colvin sold 92 Merino ewes, 1.5 years, Kelliston Park blood, for $286.
Travis and Lynette Fernandes, Winjallok, sold 300 Merino years, East Loddon blood, May/June 2020-drop including a pen of 243 ewes for $248 and 79 ewes for $228.
It was their pair's first time selling young ewes together at Bendigo.
WA & VJ Barlow, Wanalta, sold 80 merino ewes, September shorn, for $274.
Sunnside Ag Co sold 219 ewes, June/July 2020-drop, AMS blood, for $252.
Mark and Belinda Perryman, Panorama stud, Mysia, sold 125 Merino ewes, April/May 2020-drop, for $262.
Montrose Estate, Raywood, sold 47 Merino ewes, May/June 2020-drop, for $260.
BM Mulquiny, Wooroonook, sold 107 Merino ewes, April/May 2020-drop for $260.
In the older ewes, Leon A Holt, Wedderburn, sold 45 Merino ewes, April/May 2019-drop for $160.
The same vendor also sold 172 Merino ewes, 2017-drop, for $238.
NT Triplett, Barnadown, sold 188 Dohne ewes, April/May 2018-drop, for $252.
B & J Finnigan, Moormbool West, sold 98 merino ewes, April/May 2018-drop, for $182.
AJ Phillips, Goornong, sold 271 Merino ewes, April/May 20216-drop, for $225.
Kedleston Park, Cavivil, sold 300 Merino wethers, April/May 2020-drop, for $174 and 238 wethers for $162.
Lignum Gate, Wombotta, NSW, sold 320 Merino wethers for $178, while Holmewood, Strathallan, sold 3665 Merino wethers for $176.