Eighteen commercial Crookwell Merino breeders opened their property gates this week to show the best of their maiden ewes in the ninth annual ANZ Agribusiness Crookwell Flock Ewe Competition.
Although the 2016 preceding season was challenging in the Upper Lachlan district characterised by a tough autumn, extremely wet winter and late spring, judges and spectators alike could see the the genetic potential and gain moving forward in the region’s Merino flocks.
The competition is split into two sections, a long wool and spring shorn section, with a top four selected by judges in both.
This year’s section finalists are, in the long wool section and in no particular order, Daniel Fitzell, “Flowerburn”, Peelwood, on Langdene bloodlines, Brad and Maria Cartwright, “Kempton”, Fullerton, on Thalabah bloodlines, Geoff and Debbie Selmes, “Wahronga”, Wheeo on Royalla bloodlines and Hazeldean clients, Brian and Helen Anderson, “Lower Sylvia Vale”, Binda.
Of the four announced, three flocks have all been past winners. “Kempton” in 2009, “Lower Sylvia Vale” in 2012 and “Wahronga” in 2014. This is the first time “Flowerburn” has made the long wool finals, but has previously won the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) award for commercial improvement of an entrant on two occasions.
In the spring shorn section, last year’s overall winners, the Lowe family, “Innisvale,” Crookwell, with Royalla-blood ewes, were again named in the top four. Joining them was another past winner Graeme Hewitt, “Wongalea”, Binda, using bloodlines sourced from Rogara, Carrabungla and Kullingrah; Anthony and Michelle Selmes, “Glenayr”, Wheeo, with a flock of Royalla and Boudjah bloodline ewes and long time entrants, the McDonald family, Aberdeen”, “Laggan”, using genetics from Carrabungla made up the top four.
The section winners along with the overall 2017 maiden flock ewe champions will be announced at the Crookwell A.P. and H Show on Sunday, February 5.
Return judge Ben Patrick of Yarrawonga Merino stud, Harden, said it was encouraging to be part of something such as the Crookwell flock ewe competition.
“There was no doubt in this year’s competition I could see the effects of the season, but in saying that there were a number of flocks that showed dramatic improvement,” Mr Patrick said.
“You see a vast amount of different country and different sheep, but you can see the genetic potential and gain in a lot of the flocks. Genetically they are working forward.
“For their types I have seen some good sheep. People are breeding to their objectives and they know where they want to go with their flocks and they are starting to make gains towards it, that is the most impressive thing.
“A lot of people here know where they are at, are willing to learn and want to move forward.”
Assisting Mr Patrick in the judging duties was Craig Wilson of Craig Wilson and Associates, Wagga Wagga.
Mr Wilson said there is no doubt these sort of things give people the opportunity to get off their own dunghill and see other tings.
“For me a ewe competition is not a competition at all, it is more about really understanding and learning,” Mr Wilson said.
“Over the two days I have tried to not pretend that I can walk in and try to pretend for 15 minutes I can try to understand someone’s business.
“What I wanted to do was throw up some conversational points.”
He said it was clear there were different breeding objects between the flocks and a massive range is both soil types and altitude.
“These, plus others, are issues that are going to have some impact on the decisions on how producers are going to run their stock.”
He said it was evident over the last two days that the mood and confidence in Merino sheep was excellent.
“Fundamentally if people have got their breeding programs right, they should making a lot of money.”