HOGGET ewe competitions are the best promotions of the value of a self-replacing Merino flock, according to Stuart Hodgson, sheep industry specialist with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).
Mr Hodgson said AWI is very proud to back the many ewe competitions around regional NSW; whether it be the supply of woollen garments by AWI's Wendie Ridgley for a fashion parade, support with the breeders dinner at the conclusion of the competition or assistance with bus hire.
"Attendance at those competitions by AWI personnel from the Chairperson down is always encouraged by management because the benefits of ewe competitions are many and recognizable," he said.
"Most importantly it brings people together."
Participation as a spectator is encouraged and many woolgrowers and breeders travel in groups to inspect and discuss the attributes of various flocks on display.
"What has been most heartening in recent years is seeing breeders from outside the particular competition boundaries who have traveled in a group to see first-hand how those breeders cope with the challenges facing them in their own environment," Mr Hodgson said.
"And it is interesting to see the number of stud breeders who attend to evaluate how their bloodlines have influenced various flocks who are competing."
With this like minded and curious group of people travelling from property to property discussing with each other the season, sheep and wool prices and how local woolgrowers contend with their particular environment to produce a viable Merino sheep operation, Mr Hodgson noted it certainly makes for a very thought provoking day.
"At each stop the competing grower is asked to address the crowd, explaining his endeavours and target areas," he said in explaining the common format.
"There follows an open forum which enables the judges, selected from around Australia, and in some cases from overseas, to asses and then voice their opinion as to how an improvement or slight change in a management procedure could benefit the grower.
"These suggestions are well received and of course are then open to discussion where concepts like the measuring of the different breeding philosophies practiced throughout the Merino breeding industry are raised."
Mr Hodgson said the value of such forums can never be underestimated, and it can be seen that the popularity of such events is growing.
"Whether it is the 91 year old Berridale Ewe Competition (the oldest in Australia) or the extremely popular Don Brown ewe competition at Condobolin, now in its 40th year and expertly convened by Carol Ann Malouf, these events continue to grow," he said.
"We have seen in recent years a growth in this type of competition with the emergence of the very successful mid-Lachlan competition based around Cowra and the growth of like competitions in the southern Tablelands area.
"AWI values the competitions and will continue to support what we believe to be an excellent platform in the promotion and improvement in our industry."