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The Hay Ewe Flock Competition – Not Just a Bus Ride – A Two Day Woolgrower Talkfest!

Posted by Bestprac on Feb 28 2013

by Kevin Ingram, Pooncarie

Hay Merino Breeders Inc recently hosted the 22nd Peppin Shaw Competition in the Western Riverina; this being the world’s largest commercial flock ewe hogget competition.

We travelled by bus, over the two days, covering close to 1000km on varying road conditions. The unpredictable problems of broken vee belts and a seized air conditioner bearing were capably handled by Purtilll’s Coach Captain, Kevin Gough. 

Participants enjoying their time.This was truly an interactive two days with short talks, whilst travelling, on marketing, the changing environment, animal health, skills training, biosecurity and farm safety. The latter was present on everyone’s mind with the President, David Rankin and Vice-Pesident, Magnus Aitken both showing the results of recent misfortunes. Recent experiences in this area would recommend that all musterers wear hi-viz clothing and have communication devices attached to their body.

Riverina Wool Marketer, Mark Bazeley, kept all 50 odd bus travellers alert on both days by running judging competitions on the ewes from the properties visited, as well as questionnaires on topics relative to the wool industry.

It was great to have a young associate judge in Allan Vagg, interacting with fellow judges Cam Munro from ‘Egelabra’, Warren and Roger Polkinghorne from ‘Churinga’, St Arnaud. They prompted much conversation amongst the 70 odd people present at most venues. Discussion was held on price discounts on wool grown longer than 110mm; compared to the easier stock management and greater body weight efficiencies of shorter wool length sheep.  First there is a need to balance structure with a good topline, plain not narrow. Aim for lustrous deep crimping free growing skins, wax being an indicator of secondary fibres. White and bright wool enhances comfort factor, not suint which is colour. Fertility is the key to profitability in breeding operations and scanning twins/singles is a great tool for monitoring better fodder utilisation. ASBVs are another tool to advance genetics for trueness to type, body score and free skins.

Broken Dam yards at TupraLeaving Hay before sunrise on Day 1, we headed into the Western Division, where we crossed the Lachlan River at Oxley, and into predominantly chenopod country. First stop was at Broken Dam yards, ‘Tupra’, where a young female on the bus asked if there would be a ladies’ room. The answer was ‘sorry, no’; however, she was fortunate that a crutching shed was present as there wasn’t a tree in sight! Next stop was ‘Merritop’, for smoko, and the presentation of the well- structured and balanced flock, which became the overall winning team of the competition. Travelling further north to ‘Yamba’ woolshed yards we inspected a fertile flock which was judged second overall. Next stop was ‘Alma’ woolshed for lunch, supplied by the local NSW Farmers branch, then north towards Mossgiel, where second year entrant ‘Bronte’s’ ewes were yarded. It was then back down the Cobb Highway for refreshments at the Booligal Hotel, thanks to Ben Parker, Bayer; followed by hot lamb rolls prepared by the locals.

On Day 2, travelling south east of Hay, it was evident that the European rabbit and African Boxthorn were major management priorities this season. At ‘Steam Plains’ the main attraction was the recently built, Thornton, 10 stand horseshoe design, ‘shear delight’ shed. More info can be found in the Bestprac Case Study Series No 6 ( Next we travelled towards Conargo, then north to the historic ‘Warwillah’ shed. Their flock was presented with the Elders’ trophy after the mobile scales failed in transit. Travelling on towards Boorooban we experienced localised wet and dry summer storms, sparking a number of fires and quickly changing peoples’ priorities. Next stop was ‘Nyangay’ where much discussion emanated. This flock was later awarded the  Elanco Encouragement trophy  for the best short wool flock. Lunch was at Shear Outback, in Hay, which also provided the chance to cover St Valentine’s Day commitments! At the Pevensey yards, south west of Hay, the 2012 winners from ‘Mungandal’ were on display. These sheep endorsed the great season of 2011 and signalled that green tag ewes will be lifetime profit makers. The final flock inspection was back north of the Murrumbidgee River, at ‘Budgewah’, where double ram use and faba bean supplement are employed. Budgewah was later awarded the fertility award with the owner’s fertility made mention of, with four young aspiring jackaroos in the family.

What a remarkable opportunity to spend two days visiting nine commercial grazing operations and inspecting seventeen thousand classed ewe hoggets; it is to be recommended to anyone slightly interested in rangeland management. 

Landholders wishing to obtain further information on the Peppin-Shaw Ewe flock competition at Hay can contact Sally Ware at NSW DPI in Hay on or call 0429307627.

Last changed: Mar 01 2013



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