A NSW Merino stud that's only been on the scene for four years has taken out the coveted National Merino Pair of the Year championship at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show.
And the significance of the honour wasn't lost on Hollow Mount Merino stud owner Ken Wolf and managers David Zouch and Avalon McGrath, Bigga, NSW, who were all "over the moon" with the win at the Bendigo event on Friday night.
The 18.1-micron ram and 17.9-micron ewe had success in their respective classes throughout the day, with the ram winning reserve champion fine/medium ram and the ewe winning champion fine/medium ewe.
And they weren't the first significant ribbon wins for the duo, with the ram having become the first August-shorn supreme Merino exhibit in 199 years of the Sydney Royal in 2021.
"We feel very privileged," Mr Zouch said.
"The ewe has such correct structure and frame, she is feminine, has really good wool and just has a presence about her.
"The ram is magnificent, he was well-nourished wool with the conformation to match."
Both the ram and ewe were sired by Yarrawonga 193, who Hollow Mount purchased from Yarrawonga Merino stud, Cunningar, NSW, for $60,000 in 2019.
"He's been breeding some fantastic progeny for us," Mr Zouch said.
They credited their success to investing in top-quality genetics like Yarrawonga 193, and others including sires from Langdene Merino stud, Dunedoo, NSW.
They said they would breed from the successful ram and ewe, having already taken semen from the ram with some "good-looking lambs" currently on the ground.
The pair will also be shown separately at the Dubbo, NSW, show later in the year.
One of the national pair judges Johno Hicks, Hannaton Merino stud, Kaniva, said the winning sheep were an "incredible pair".
"They both have beautiful, stylish and soft wool all over, a depth of body and spring of rib," Mr Hicks said.
"They were a really complete pair and I thought they were the best match."
He said the quality of the Merino pairs was "unbelievable".
"The standard seems to get better and better every year, which is a credit to the vendors," he said.
The reserve champion pair was awarded to Collinsville Merino stud, Hallett, SA.
Mr Hicks described the Collinsville duo as "incredibly tall, long-bodied, stretchy sheep".
He said they were ever-so slightly less even than the winning pair.
Earlier in the night, Terrick West Merino stud, Prairie, was awarded not only the National March-shorn Merino Pair of the Year title, but also reserve champion in the same category.
Terrick West stud principal Ross McGauchie described the double-win as "unbelievable".
"We thought the sheep were a good pair, but had no idea they'd do so well in a national competition," Mr McGauchie said.
"To win first is one thing, but to win second too is just more than you could ever imagine."
All four sheep from the two successful pairs were full siblings, having been sired by a Wallaloo Park ram and out of specially-selected Terrick West ewes.
Mr McGauchie said there was more to winning the pairs competition than just breeding two good sheep.
"They need to be good sheep, but they need to match each other," he said.
"[The winning pair] had the structure and type, were well covered, and were good-doing sheep."
Judge Geoff Davidson, Moorundie Poll Merino stud, Keith, SA, said the winning Terrick West pair exemplified where the Merino industry was heading.
"They are both fast-maturing, heavy-cutting animals," Mr Davidson said.
"The ram had a great barrel and good, crimpy wool, and the ewe matched it."
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