THE NORTHEY family of Innisfail, Kikoira, have taken out top honours during the 27th annual Lake Cargelligo Maiden Merino Ewe Competition on Saturday.
Displaying a snippet of what their flock of Belswick-blood ewes have to offer, Paul and Jen Northey and family run around 2600 Merino ewes across 8100 hectares.
They target a 21-micron fleece and have an average wool cut of nine kilograms. Their key breeding objectives are structure, ensuring sheep have good pasterns, hocks and bone structure, and wool that is bright, soft, and sits around 20 to 21 micron.
The competition was officiated by return judge Richard Chalker of Lach River Merinos, Darbys Falls, Spike Orr, Gundarimbah, Parkes, and Mitchell Rubie, Lachlan Merino stud, Forbes, and Craig Wilson and Associates, Wagga Wagga.
The three judges all agreed that the Northeys presented a "terrific line of ewes", with Mr Rubie saying "they have terrific neck extension, good top lines, and plenty width in the hips".
"They are big, structurally correct ewes and have all the main building blocks there as well as lock structure which is important in this environment," he said.
"I can't commend you anymore, they are a real credit to you."
Related Reading: Faces at the Lake Cargelligo Maiden Merino Ewe Competition
After having to pull out of the 2021 competition at the last minute due to heavy rainfall the night before, the Northey family were pleased to be able to take part this year.
Recently they have transitioned the bloodlines of their ewes switching to Belswick genetics to increase the wool cut, get a better crimp and style, and put more guts in the wool.
"The previous bloodline focused on polled and I like my horned rams. We are trying to keep our frame and bone structure as confirmation is very important," Mr Northey said.
"We saw the Belswick sheep at Dubbo Show and had a look at their rams. About 90 per cent of them matched what we wanted to do."
The transition begun with the purchase of six Belswick sires which were put over their five-year-old ewes to see how they performed.
"We have increased the bloodline by 25pc each year," Mr Northey said.
The ewes on display in the competition were the first drop of full Belswick-blood ewes.
Return judge Mr Chalker said he could see where the Northey family was heading, and commended them for having a direction.
"Even with the transition from one bloodline to another they are a very, very even draft," he said.
Related reading: Long wool ewes impress at Lake Cargelligo competition
Mr Northey said he had also changed his lambing and shearing programs recently because "we had to do something to get more lambs on the ground"
Previously, they shore in September and lambed in April/May. Shearing now occurs at the end of March or early April and lambing has been pushed back a month for a May/June lamb.
Lambing later means there is a bit more green feed on the ground, Mr Northey said.
The reduction in lamb loss has likely resulted from ewes staying at their lambing spot for two to three days whereas in the past they had to go for a drink.
"I think that was where most of the lambs were being lost," he said.
Young ewes are shorn three times in their first two years and then once grown fall back into the regular once a year shearing.
Second place was presented to Justin and Natalie McCarten, Glen Echo flock, Rankins Springs, with their One Oak Poll-blood ewes, while third went to Maree Stockman with Greg and Linda Thomas, Forest Lodge, Gubba, and their Lachlan-blood ewes.
The encouragement award went to Betty and Phil Hall, Trelynne, Weethalle, who displayed a line of ewes of Avenel blood.
Love agricultural news? Sign up for The Land's free daily newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.