Tasmania’s Trefusis Merino stud has become the most successful exhibitor in the Australian Fleece Competition’s 18-year history, taking out the 2018 championship for the third time in the last four years.
Awarded at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo, Georgina and Hamish Wallace’s champion 19.1 micron fleece was in the fine Merino stud ewe or wether class, and scored 97.87 out of a possible 100 points.
Ms Wallace said she was blown away by the win.
“I didn’t think we’d ever win it once, let alone three times,” Ms Wallace said.
“I think this result goes to show that we are being consistent with our breeding objectives to produce productive sheep with good size and stylish wool. The result is very much a team effort from my husband and family.”
She said it was also acknowledgement that the stud is heading in the right direction, after a significant change in 2010.
“We were predominantly a Saxon superfine flock, and with the change in the wool market, we wanted to breed bigger-framed sheep that cut more wool and had better fertility, and that’s what these sheep are doing,” she said.
They incorporated genetics from Nerstane and Langdene Merino studs, NSW, and in eight years have seen significant improvements.
The stud ewes now average a seven kilogram fleece weight, as opposed to 4.5 kilograms prior, and the lambing percentage has gone up from 85 per cent to 110pc.
“It just goes to show that if you stick to it and try your best, the results will come,” she said.
And the win was no easy feat, with this year’s competition, facilitated by the Australian Sheep Breeders Association, Australian Wool Testing Authority and Landmark, attracting a seven per cent increase on last year’s entries, with a total 446 fleeces judged.
Almost two thirds of the fleeces on show were donated by exhibitors for auction at the completion of the competition, with all proceeds to be donated to this year’s nominated charity, Lyme Disease Association of Australia.
The reserve champion award went to the Blight family’s Seymour Park Poll Merino stud, Highbury, WA, with a 20.7 micron medium Merino fleece, that scored an impressive 96.47 points.
The champion commercial fleece was won by the Hayes family at Ruffy, with a score of 96.35 points, while reserve went to the Marshall family at Burren Junction, NSW.
Judges for this year’s competition were Australian Merino Export Company director Chris Kelly and Landmark’s Jason Carmichael.
The tough growing conditions experienced by a large number of Australian woolgrowers was highlighted by the judges, but they were commended for still being able to maintain their flock’s style and character.
“Over the years, we have seen fleece weights increase, with microns reducing – making for a more profitable enterprise,” Mr Carmichael said.
“This was clearly evident in the stud sections, leading the way for future breeders of the Australian wool clip.”
Competition convener, Landmark’s Candice Cordy said it was impressive to see an increased number of entries this year.
“It is fantastic, considering the less than ideal growing conditions in most areas,” Ms Cordy said.
“The four major awards going to four different state winners shows we have a truly national competition, as well as more than 25pc of entries from non-Merino breeds reflecting the widespread appeal of the format.”
The Corriedale section was highlighted with 42 entries, coinciding with the 16th World Corriedale Congress being held in Australia this year.
The competition offers $16,000 in prizes, with the grand champion fleece exhibitor collecting a $2000 travel voucher.
All competition fleeces were weighed and sampled for objective measurement (including length and strength), under standard procedures of the Australian Wool Testing Authority.