Onlookers during the recent Chris Naake Memorial flock ewe competition in the Mudgee region at times must have thought they were in a cooking show.
The words “nourishment” and “over cooked” were frequently used in the same sentence by the two judges during their visits to seven flocks on day two of the competition.
The need to get wool “nourishment” right - ie, achieving the right balance between wax (lanolin) and suint (sweat) - was a topic that one judge in particular, Jono Merriman, Merrignee and Koonwarra studs, Boorowa, kept returning to during the day.
All flocks in this year’s competition were affected by prolonged dry conditions which resulted in varying amounts of dust in their wool.
Well-nourished, soft, white wool provides protection against problems such as sun and rain damage, dust, flystrike and wool rot.
Nourishment tends to express itself as a black tip but Mr Merriman and his fellow judge, Rodney Kent, Kurrajong Park stud, Delungra, were referring more to large areas of dark blotching on the backs of some sheep.
“A lot of producers think nourishment is a black tip, but it’s right through the wool, you can smell it (when at excessive levels),” Mr Merriman said.
“Don’t push too hard into nourishment, get the right nourishment. Too much nourishment causes problems, particularly in big seasons (including flystrike and wool breakdown).
“Getting the right balance is the trick,” he said. He described sheep showing excess nourishment as “over cooked”.
Mr Merriman said the nourishment trait was heritable and growers with the problem should select rams to restore the balance.
He said later producers who pushed nourishment too hard and too fast risked “going over a cliff”.
The other judge, Rodney Kent, Kurrajong Park stud, Delungra, also raised the nourishment issue, saying at one property visit the flock was under-nourished which was resulting in dry, harsh wool.
“Get rams with some more nourishment,” he said.
Lanolin is produced in the sebaceous glands at the base of fibres and helps waterproof them.
Excessive suint (dried greasy perspiration from the sweat glands) attracts moisture, emits odour and makes fleece more “yolky” and susceptible to fleece rot.
Both judges also touched on culling rates, saying some flocks were being held back by a small number of below-par ewes.