Demand for high-quality ultrafine Merino wool by Italian spinners and weavers is stronger than ever, according to the winner of the top-end wool class at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show.
Dunkeld-based Glenara Merino stud won the grand champion ultrafine Merino ram class at Bendigo on Saturday after an impressive performance at the Victorian Sheep Show in Ballarat just a few weeks earlier.
Glenara Merino stud principals Trevor and Kathy Mibus said despite fluctuations in wool prices, demand for ultrafine fleece had a bright future.
"The market is always there for those Italians who have been buying this wool for 300 years," Mr Mibus said.
"They know what they're doing and they will always want to buy that wool, it's just that we have fluctuations with seasons and wool prices.
"The market is so small for this sort of wool that they need us and we need them."
The western Victorian stud claimed the title with a ram born via embryo transfer from Conrayan Ford, one of the best-performing ewes the stud has bought in seven decades.
"We won the pairs with him at Ballarat and he was second in the supreme exhibit at Ballarat," Mr Mibus said.
"We're very happy with him and I think he's the best ram we've ever bred."
Mr Mibus described the prize-winning ram as the "complete package".
"This sheep has raised the bar a bit because wool quality is something we have always been renowned for, but this sheep's structure, size and purity is not something we've had before," he said.
The Mibus family has produced ultrafine Merinos for 70 years, and said loyal and return clients continued to underpin the success of the stud
"It is a niche market, but we have lots of clients who have been with us for 30 or 40 years and we all sell to the Italian market which targets quality wool," he said.
The stud planned to retain the top-prized ram and had already collected and sold his semen, with lambs due to hit the ground from late-July.
Conrayn Merino stud principal Peter Lette, Berridale, NSW, was also among the winners, claiming the grand champion ultrafine Merino ewe of the show.
"She's a fantastic young ewe with a beautiful barrel, making shape with a lovely bonnet and purity right through," Mr Lette said.
"She's so well-covered, has a beautiful underline and will be a great breeder in the future."
Ultrafine Merino judge Anna Cotton, Kelvedon Estate, Swansea, Tas, said it was an outstanding class.
"These sheep had beautiful, soft-crimping and stunning wool and it was a privilege to be able to judge them," she said.
"The Glenara ram was a standout for because because of his even crimp and cover of wool... he was a really stylish sheep."