The intention of the biennial Peppin-Shaw Riverina ewe flock forum is to “further the quality of the Hay Merino breeders’ flocks by focusing on the production and profitability of the wool and meat values of the flock ewes within the Hay district”, according to the forum conditions of entry.
Current president of the organising committee, Magnus Aitken, noted in this the second biennial event, Riverina sheep producers are encouraged to display their Merino flocks for critical assessment to promote discussion on furthering the value of the Riverina Merino industry.
“The aim of this forum is to display and discuss the attributes of the Merino sheep in this area,” he said.
Industry assessors this year were Courtney Sutherland, an independent sheep classer and renowned blade shearer from Wagin, WA, and Jarrod Slattery, Landmark, Wagga Wagga.
“Together, the two assessors have experience across the production traits of the Merino sheep.”
Their comments were well received by the sheep producers and visitors alike.
Most of the responses concentrated on talking about increasing the number of Merino ewes joined to Merino rams in order to maintain breeding parity.
Major sponsor, Riverina Wool, Moama director, Mark Blazeley, raised the issue further when he noted the main message coming out of the 2017 forum was – we need to breed more Merino ewes to Merino rams, not to terminal sires.
“There are not enough Merino ewes in Australia, let alone the world,” Mr Bazeley said.
“Besides their contribution as growers of fine wool, the base of the Australian prime lamb industry is founded firmly of the Australian Merino ewe.
“If we continue to join numbers of Merino ewes to terminal sires we stand the risk of losing, in the longterm, valuable numbers of quality Merino ewes, for short term gain.”
Mr Bazeley noted the long term risk will occur if replacement numbers of maiden Merino ewes falls below a flock sustainable level.
“International markets for our wool will look at the wool industry as an insignificant segment of the market if that was to occur,” he said.
“And the Australian Merino wool industry will become a declining force in the international textile market.”
The latest figure provided by Meat and Livestock Australia, dated November 2016 show 17.8 million Merino ewes joined to Merino rams, whereas a further 8.8 million where joined to terminal sires.