Gary Staehr almost didn't enter the McLennan-McColl Ewe Competition this year, but he's glad he did, having taken out the champion title.
Mr Staehr of Laharum said he was asked to join the competition and thought 'why not?', so to win was a "complete surprise".
Seven commercial operations entered the competition, where maiden ewes were judged on their wool quality, structure, size and commercial qualities.
Mr Staehr said he was "pretty critical" of his sheep, and thought that attention to detail may have been why his ewes came out on top.
He also believed the consistency in the rams he bought from Glendonald Merino stud at Nhill contributed to his even line-up of ewes.
He said 20-micron fleece was what he strived to achieve.
"We could probably go a bit finer but we'd lose wool cut, and probably go a bit stronger and gain wool cut, but for our climate, that suits us," he said.
He said his climate was extremely variable.
"We can get 10 inches in a year or 25 inches," he said.
"We had a pretty reasonable year last year."
He said they typically got short on feed in November, which was hard because that was when they lamb.
"But we manage, we just keep an eye on things," he said.
He said looking after ewes was important to maintain good fertility rates.
"You've got to keep that condition in your ewes," he said.
"Lamb numbers are important, you make more money breeding lambs."
Oakbank Merino and Poll Merino stud principal Warren McRae, Gre Gre North, was one of the judges of the competition, alongside Rock-Bank Merino and Poll Merino stud principal John Crawford, Victoria Valley.
Mr McRae said Mr Staehr's ewes were exactly what he was looking for.
"They were very even, true to type, well-grown, heavy wool-cutters, with rich, white wool," he said.
"You could see they'd been well-bred over many years."
Victorian Stud Merino Sheep Breeders' Association president Peter Rogers, who helped run the competition, agreed, saying they were "good, even ewes, that cut a lot of wool".
Mr Rogers said the competition, which had been running for five or six years now, was a good opportunity to get a look into the operations of some impressive commercial Merino breeders.
"It's good to be able to get around to people's properties, and see their management and see their sheep," he said.
He said specifically judging maiden ewes was beneficial as most had just been classed and were ready to start breeding.
He said the quality of the operations on show this year was fantastic.
"There was not a lot in it between the placings," he said.
Mr McRae agreed, saying second place-getter Daniel Greig, Jeparit, also had some big, well-grown, heavy-cutting sheep on display.
He said the competition was a great learning experience for all involved.
"You never stop learning, and that's so important," he said.
Third place was awarded to Peter Remfry, Stavely.