The thirteenth Caragabal Merino Ewe Competition was held on February 21.
The annual bus trip visited eight properties, which provided a good cross-section of Merino bloodlines, classing objectives and sheep management.
Judges were James Barron, Adina Merinos, Peak View and Michael Corkhill, Grassy Creek, Reids Flat.
With another year of drought leading up to the competition, local farmers were put to the test, with their entries proving the robustness of the Merino to handle the harsh Australian climate when careful breeding selections are made and nutrition was prioritised.
Dust penetration and yield were key attributes of the wool that were observed while much of the conversation revolved around improving flock fertility to boost return on investment.
George Hancock, Regional Sales Manager for Coopers Animal Health, addressed the group during the lunchtime break about the importance of vaccinating for Campylobacter bacteria.
"One of the reasons for lower lamb marking percentages can be Campylobacter, which can cause abortions, particularly in maiden ewes that are often nave to the bacteria," Mr Hancock said.
"Many farmers don't know that it is a problem on their farms or think that it is only an issue in wet areas, but Campylobacter is found across the country and is also prevalent in dry areas.
"It can be a significant source of reproductive loss for producers but can be addressed through an appropriate vaccination program."
At the conclusion of the bus trip, presentations were held at the Royal Hotel, Caragabal, where the judges for the day, James Barron and Michael Corkhill announced the winners.
First place, sponsored by Jemalong Wool, went to went to Trevor and Stephen Cooper of T.H. Cooper and Co., Burrabeena, Caragabal, who also took out the people's choice award in what was a fairly unanimous decision.
T.H. Cooper and Co. normally run around 2300 breeding ewes with an average adult micron of 18.46, with the aim to eventually build up to around 3000.
This year, a higher number of maiden ewes (42 per cent) were classed out due to the ongoing drought.
T.H. Cooper and Co. have been sourcing their rams from Rocklyn Merino stud for the past 11 years, under the guidance of Ralph Diprose.
Key attributes of the stud have certainly had a flow-on effect with T.H. Cooper's flock boasting high fertility (average lambing percentage to ewes joined 112 per cent) and heavy cutters (average adult greasy fleece weight 7.44kg).
"Nutrition has also played a key role in the success of the flock," Stephen Cooper said,
"Over the past 12 months, the maiden ewes have gone from stubbles, to Lucerne, to hay and barley in the drought-lot, to agistment at Henty then on to failed canola and wheat crops before heading back into the drought-lot where they are currently fed around 4.9kg/head barley and 2kg/head straw a week".
Second place, sponsored by Elders, went to Scott Halls, Currawong Pastoral Trust.
Mr Halls had been breeding from his own ram stock for 21 years, running 4000 breeding ewes, with an average lambing percentage to ewes joined of 84 per cent, average adult ewe micron of 18.8 micron and greasy fleece weight of 5.6kg.
Numbers have been maintained during the drought through extensive feeding and Scott presented an even line of well-grown maidens.
The encouragement award, sponsored by Coopers, went to Charles and Rebecca Maslin, Caragabal West Pty Ltd, who run 2200 breeding ewes on their property Caragabal West.
The Maslins have sourced their rams through Pastora for the past decade, resulting in a finer flock with an average adult micron of 17.8.
Their average lambing percentage is a healthy 97 per cent and average adult greasy fleece weight is 6.5kg.
Having received over 170mm in the past month, it was remarkable that they were able to get the ewes in for inspection at all.
While both entrant and spectator numbers were down on previous years, there were several new participants and all involved enjoyed the day, especially the caramel slice.
The Caragabal Merino Ewe Competition committee thanked all the entrants, judges, participants, sponsors and supporters who made the day possible.