Keith Rees loves his Merinos and their wool so much, he said their fleeces were so soft he could nearly eat them.
His flock of Pooginook blood for nearly 30 years, described as a great commercial flock, won the 2019 West Wyalong maiden Merino ewe competition last week.
Mr Rees with his wife, Paula and son, Michael, displayed their 2017 drop maiden ewes bred at Sydenham, Kildary near Bookham, for the field day crowd of 30 who visited six flocks on the day.
The flock of a little more than 500 ewes grows an average 20 micron wool and cut an average 7.82 kilogram fleece of 63 per cent yield on a March shearing.
The 21-month-old maidens were classed by Bruce Baker who took out 25pc of that year’s maiden drop.
The Rees family run their Merinos along with a large cropping regime, however, attendees could see the passion Keith Rees has for his sheep.
“I’ve stuck with Pooginook because they have stuck with me and although I think these type are a little slow maturing, they are beautifully soft wool sheep with a long staple and I really love their wool,” he said.
“They’re fleeces are really soft and when you put them in the bale you can nearly east them, I reckon.”
The Rees join a bit over 500 Merino ewes in their self-replacing flock and also have a “little mob” of first-cross ewes they breed which are joined to Poll Dorset rams for a second-cross prime lamb.
Mr Rees said he buys “a couple” of rams each year.
“I do buy from the top-end of the offering, and that makes it difficult to buy the exact ram I want,” he said.
“Also, the few rams I have bought in the past few years have been a little higher in micron, so my ewes are measuring around the 20 micron mark and lambs at about 17,” he said.
Admitting he was not a “big feeder”, he said he figured that was probably where he could “step up” with his young sheep to get them to their full potential.
However, both judges said they believed he was on the right path.
Jenni Turner, the Culcairn-based sheep and wool classer and wool buyer representative for Fox and Lillie Rural, said whatever the Rees were doing was wonderful.
Talking about the ewes displayed Ms Turner said she really liked their fast, free-growing lustrous wools.
“These are beautiful fast-growing bold-crimping, soft handling wooled sheep and I imagine their coefficient of variation (CV) would be pretty low.
“As far as micron goes, I think your micron is perfectly suited to your environment.”
Co-judge, Ian Griffith of Brundanella Poll Merino stud, Greenthorpe, the Rees had a “great commercial flock”.
“I wouldn’t worry about the micron, but continue to push your fleece weight,” he said.
“I believe you have to grow your sheep to what your environment will allow, and these are great sheep for this environment.
“Great wools, great handling wools with good length of staple and great coverage.”
Second place was awarded to maiden ewes from a 1900 ewe flock of Pastora blood run by Darryl Kitto at Goyura, Tallimba.
This flock grows an average 18.3 micron wool and cuts 8.8kg in a March shearing and classed by Michael Elms.
Jeff and Liz Gould of Mon Repose, Blowclear, gained third placing with their 19 month-old maiden ewes from a 1200 ewe flock of Mt Vernon (Tasmanian) blood classed by Alison Rutledge.
The Goulds’ adult flock grows an average 19.1 micron wool and cuts a 6.8kg fleece in an April shearing.
An encouragement award was presented to 20 year-old Merino enthusiast, Emma Northey, Innisfail, Kikoira, who has just ventured out into her own breeding flock.
“I’ve followed dad around the paddocks and yards since I could walk and he finally agreed to allow me to select 100 ewes from his flock,” Ms Northey said.
“The 57 maiden ewes are my first drop by rams I selected and were classed by Michael Elms and are from 20.5 micron mothers.”