YOUNG gun shearers took to the board to shear 750 wethers in Australia's largest commercial evaluation of Merino genetics - the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge (PWMCC).
The PWMCC which runs from 2014 to 2016 kicked off with 50 teams of 30 wethers last year.
Once all wethers were together they were separated into two sections, with one half being lotfed with their meat measured, while the remaining 15 from each team were used for wool evaluations.
The average age of the wethers when they entered the challenge was seven-months-old, they were all shorn upon entry and last week were shorn again with 11 months wool growth.
First shearing was conducted over a two-day period at the TAFE Riverina's Primary Industries Centre at Wagga last week.
Challenge convener, Craig Wilson, Wagga, said the challenge evaluated both commercial carcase and wool attributes of randomly sampled wethers lambs from across Australia.
Preliminary results show Jerilderie's Ross and Irene Wells' Willandra Merino stud, NSW, genetics as a standout with two of their clients claiming the two top places on the board.
Wedderburn growers, Ian and Julie Gould, "Wattle Grange", Victoria, finished with the best figures for their team of wethers that had a wool average of 19.4 micron, cut 8.6kg of wool, weighed 63.6kg, had a meat value of $86.07, wool value of $67.95 and total sheep value of $154.02.
Second placed in the statistics were Maurice and Nancye Hicks, "Springfield", Cootamundra, with his 20.6 micron team of wethers, that cut 9.4kg of wool, weighed 64.2kg had a meat value of $86.92, a wool value of $66.16 and a total sheep value of $153.08.
Mr Wells said when his clients put teams in the challenge it provided an opportunity to benchmark his genetics against others breeders, and in particular the concept that Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV's) and Estimated Breeding Value's (EBV's) were the only way the sheep industry could go forward.
"The most important factor for anyone is the bottom line; in the end the more you get for your product the better you will be able to move forward," he said.
Mr Wilson said the 50 entrants that were part of the challenge were at different stages of genetic progress.
"The underlying critical element from all of the data is we are measuring actual genetic variation, all sheep have been run together and managed exactly the same way. They have all had the same opportunities," he said.
Throughout the 2014-2016 challenge more than 50,000 records will be collected and processed.
Traits measured include body weight, fat score, fibre diameter, co-efficient of variation of fibre diameter, standard deviation of fibre diameter, spinning fineness curvature, comfort factor, washing yield, schlumberger yield, greasy fleece weight, clean fleece weight and staple strength.
Mr Wilson said the information and data analysis from the challenge showed entrants and the wider sheep industry the financial opportunities that exist through high performance Merino genetics.
"Net profit per hectare is a good indicator when comparing enterprise types.
"Knowledge of the relative performance of your Merino genetics is vital in running a profitable sheep business."
The evaluation shearing conducted last week focused on youth and education.
The inaugural PWMMC Advanced Shearing School coincided with the first evaluation shearing for the 2014-2016 challenge.
Ten young shearers shore the challenge wethers and received training from Australian Wool Innovation accredited shearer trainers.
"It's an opportunity to showcase all parts of the wool growing and harvesting process and provide young aspiring shearers to gain valuable training and experience," Mr Wilson said.
The focus of the PWMMC was youth and education and attracted 70 students studying agriculture at Wagga who observed the shearing process and fleece data recording as they came off the board, as well as students from TAFE and Charles Sturt University.
A team of students from St Paul's College, Walla Walla, NSW, helped pen sheep for shearing.
This year marked 10 years of continuous benchmarking of Merino genetics by Mr Wilson.
He commenced his first benchmarking of Merino genetics in 2004 at Collingullie, NSW.
Since then 7720 wether and 80 different bloodlines had been benchmarked for 294 entrants at eight different sites.
In the 2012-2014 PWMMC three key traits- fibre diameter, clean fleece weight and body weight under the five-year average price period were calculated to determine net profit per hectare.
The top 20 per cent of teams in the challenge were $93 more profitable per hectare that the bottom 20pc, which were run at the same stocking rate.
The top 20pc were on average one micron finer and cut 700 grams more clean fleece weight.