THE opportunity for commercial breeders to benchmark against each other in the form of a flock ewe competition and field day format is fantastic.
That's what Australian Wool Innovation board member and Dubbo-based wool broker Don Macdonald thinks of Merino flock ewe competitions.
"Interest is growing in them and I think part of that is because the sheep sections at local agricultural shows are waning, so ewe comps have taken the place," he said.
"They are more commercial. The beauty of ewe comps is that we are actually looking at a whole drop of classed maiden breeders and you get the best picture of the direction of that flock and the things that are influencing them at the time."
Mr Macdonald said the competitions were all about the commercial breeder.
"They’re not about the studs, although we need the studs to give genetic direction to commercial breeders, but from an AWI perspective, it’s great for us to actually see on the ground what commercial breeders are doing and the directions they’re heading," he said.
After attending three competitions this year at Trundle, Condobolin and the Central Western, Mr Macdonald commented on the "great emphasis still on wool production".
"And what’s showing up in this drought more than anything, wool is paying the bills," he said.
"There was a flock we went to at Condobolin where their maiden ewes last year cut $165 worth of wool.
"I had to get that verified and it was correct. These are phenomenal numbers.
"At $3 a week these ewes are actually covering the feed bill in wool growth.
"They're growing $3 of wool a week."
There’s a lot of commercial flocks with ewes cutting $2 worth of wool a week.
"So that’s an important aspect that these ewe comps bring out," he said.
"And I’ve heard a lot of stories in other areas where interest filled the field day buses.
"So these competitions tick a lot of boxes."
Condobolin sheep classer and Don Brown competition committee member Tom Kirk said ewe competitions were teaching breeders how to feed.
"How to manage a balanced diet and get young sheep going is a result of ewe competitions I believe," he said.
"People like competitions, there's no doubt, but the field day formats are designed for networking - sharing and gaining ideas."
Mr Kirk said whenever a ewe comp starts up, the quality of the sheep improves inside 10 years.
"Berridales been going 100 years and Condo 40 years and their flocks have improved immensely."