STUD Merino producers in the New England region are getting ready for their sheep and wool showcase, with the New England Merino Field Days (NEMFD) to be held on January 12 and 13.
Nineteen Merino studs – Alfoxton, Cressbrook, Deeargee, Stanley Vale, Whyworry Park, Airlie, Clovernook, Kurrajong Park, Maister’s Swamp, Waverley Downs, Yooroooga, Karori, Miramoona, Nerstane, Petali, Queenlee, Shalimar Park, Westvale and Yalgoo – will open their farm gates to visitors, showcasing sires ahead of the New England ram selling season in January and February.
NEMFD president Tim Bower said the biennial event was a great opportunity for potential clients to talk to stud producers, and identify and research sires to suit their wool production.
Mr Bower said the improved wool market had led to increased interest in the field days, with higher returns giving commercial and stud producers the confidence to reinvest in their operations.
"Many people will be cutting about $70 a head at the moment, which is a 50 per cent increase on the last season, and the Merino ewe is one of the best returners in agriculture at the moment."
The improved market, combined with a good season across most of NSW, has resulted in a perfect storm for producers who stayed in the industry.
"It's been tough for the past few years and especially for those in fine-end of the wool market, but those who stuck in there and really hung in, they're getting rewarded now," Mr Bower said.
Another benefit of the tougher years has been the improved genetics.
"Those tough years put pressure on breeders and studs to do a better job, and because of that, some of the rams on show and for sale this year are leading with their Australian Sheep Breeding Values,” Mr Bower said.
"We've also got a good cross-section of wool types in the New England now because of the market issues.
“So if you're not happy with the wool you're cutting, you can use the science of ASBVs to identify rams that have the traits you're looking for."
While there won’t be the usual ultimate ram competition in 2018, there will be a people’s choice ram competition on the Friday night.
"Studs have the opportunity to bring along a few two-tooth rams and the visitors can vote on the best ram that suits them," Mr Bower said.
The field days will culminate with an evening at the New England Brewing Company at Uralla on the Saturday night, where attendees will hear from a surprise guest, one of Australia’s rugby greats.
“We wanted to hold an event that really celebrated the New England studs and the wider region, which produces some of the best quality rams and wool in Australia,” Mr Bower said.