High lamb returns are hoped to boost the bidding action at the Canterbury A&P Association's elite ram and ewe fair today.
With the meat schedule still at $9/kg for an average-sized lamb, there's optimism that this might bring out the chequebooks over the ram selling season.
A catalogue of about 130 stud rams, with seven Texel and six Poll Dorset two-tooth ewes, are up for auction at the elite fair.
They include border Leicesters, Dorpers, Corriedales, Texels, Suffolks, Dorset Downs, South Suffolks, Southdowns, Romneys and Poll Dorsets.
That's just short on last year's 160 entries and there's no Charollais and English Leicesters.
PGG Wrightson Upper South Island genetics specialist Simon Eddington said numbers were slightly back because of more on-farm sales, but ram quality was up.
"From the rams I've seen they look every bit as good, if not better. Potentially there are some very good rams there and all you need is two willing buyers and you have an auction."
He said there would be winners from exhibitor-only A&P shows in Ellesmere, Ashburton and Christchurch among the line-up.
It remains to be seen whether the record price will be tested. Blenheim farmer Christina Jordan topped last year's sale with $17,000 for a Southdown ram hogget.
Eddington said it only took a few farmers searching for something they needed in their flock to form a small syndicate and reach these levels.
He said the high meat schedule for ewes and lambs had put sheep farmers in a good frame of mind.
Some farmers might take the opportunity to invest this back into new rams at coming on-farm ram sales. North Island sales had been going well, he said.
"There's a lot of positivity out there and beef and lamb has been strong. You would like to think that would flow through to coming ram sales and it may be a time that farmers look at their ram team and get some good genetics in there - this is the year to do it."
On-farm stud sales started in the South Island with a Beltex selection at Mt Somers and Southdowns in Waimate last week.