THE Ross Thompson Merino Challenge has notched up another huge success this year with crowds flocking to the shearing shed at the PIBA Katanning Sheep Show last week. First prize of a four-wheel motorcycle in the statewide competition went to Pingelly farmers Ike and June Page, with their entry of Wallinar blood ewe hoggets. "Ross (Thompson) was a great sheep man and we're just rapt to win," Ike said. The Pages run 4600 sheep and 1700 lambs on their west Pingelly property and have been on the Wallinar bloodline since 1989. Ike said he had a philosophy of always looking after his stock and that it was especially important to look after hoggets to get them to grow early on. Judge Bevan Taylor said the Pages sheep were very well grown with bulky, lustrous wool with the right micron and a good skin. The competition was in its second year and easily filled its quota of 35 entrants early on with commercial breeders eager to benchmark their sheep with other growers throughout the state. This year's criteria was 10 ewe hoggets, which were judged on constitution, conformation, wool quantity, quality and uniformity with three hoggets being shorn and their fleeces tested and judged according to processor requirements. Judges John McLaren, Nerstane stud, NSW, consultant Bevan Taylor and Elders national wool marketing manager Craig Turner were all quick to commend the exhibitors on the presentation of their sheep despite the tough season. "The season has been a tough one, which has made it hard to judge the wool with it being tender at the base," Mr McLaren said. Wool judge Craig Turner said he was pleased with the fleece weights, comfort factor and consistency of micron in the teams but was a little disappointed with the lack of style and strength in some of the wools, but this was mainly due to the tough season. Making it two years in row were second prize winners of a two-wheel motorcycle RJ & MA McGill, Goomalling, with their team of Wattle Dale blood ewe hoggets. The judges said the McGills' sheep were placed second for their dense, white and even wools on structurally sound sheep. Rob McGill said they entered again after their success last year because they were interested to see how their hoggets matched up. "We have been on the Wattle Dale bloodline for five years after deciding to try finer wools out at Goomalling," Mr McGill said. Third prize winners of a generator were WW & LJ Filmer, Nyabing, who run 4000 Woodyarrup blood Merinos. The judges commented that it was interesting to see a premature wool team come up in the ranking and, given 12 months' wool growth, they would really shine. "We entered the competition to benchmark our sheep, to see where we are, where to improve and whether we are heading in the right direction with our breeding," Wal Filmer said.