THIS year marked the 10th year WA Merino breeders were out in force at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo with a truckload of sheep, and they didn't leave disappointed.
While the team didn't collect as many accolades as previous years it was still a successful showing for the studs which between them collected 14 broad ribbons, which was above the expectations of many.
In total 16 studs exhibited 45 Merino and Poll Merinos (41 rams and four ewes) in the show, which attracted more than 720 Merinos from most parts of Australia.
However unlike previous years WA didn't walk away with the highest honours.
These went to the Roseville Park stud, Dubbo, New South Wales, which exhibited the supreme exhibit and grand champion ewe of show and the North Ashrose stud, Gulnare, South Australia, which exhibited the grand champion ram of show.
When the Roseville Park ewe was announced the supreme exhibit fine-medium wool Merino judge Robert Harding, Glen Donald stud, Nhill, Victoria, said both the Roseville Park ewe and the North Ashrose ram were tremendous exhibits and it couldn't get any closer between the two.
"In the end we went for the ewe as she is almost faultless and shows tremendous quality," Mr Harding said.
"She stands really well, is beautifully balanced and carries a really great, long-stapled, heavy-cutting, fine-medium wool all the way down to her points."
The six-tooth, ET-bred Merino ewe was sired by RP09-14 and out of RP384 and carried wool figures of 17.7 micron, 2.5 SD, 14.1 CV and 99.7 per cent comfort factor.
The stylish wool ewe was also sashed the grand champion fine-medium wool ewe, champion fine-medium wool Merino ewe and champion August shorn fine-medium wool Merino ewe.
The win by the Roseville Park ewe marked only the third time a ewe had won the supreme title at the show in 13 years.
The last time a ewe was sashed the supreme exhibit was in 2007 when the East Strathglen stud, Tambellup, achieved the feat.
Taking top ram honours and narrowly missing the coveted supreme award was a WA-sired strong wool Poll Merino ram from the North Ashrose stud.
The big, well-balanced sire was sashed the grand champion ram of show, grand champion Poll Merino ram, grand champion strong wool ram, champion strong wool Poll Merino ram and champion August shorn strong wool Poll Merino ram.
Strong wool judge Richard House, Barloo stud, Gnowangerup, said the North Ashrose ram was an excellent representation of a Poll Merino.
"He is a very complete ram and almost perfect," Mr House said.
"He is a massive ram, with outstanding make and shape.
"He is very well-balanced and stands well on his legs for a ram of his size.
"In addition to his correctness and conformation, which you can't fault, he carries a long, bright, soft, free-growing, bold crimping wool which will have plenty of weight."
The ET-bred ram was sired by East Strathglen Sir Dick, which was the supreme exhibit at the 2010 show and out of a ewe carrying Collinsville Imperial and Monarch bloodlines.
The six-tooth, 150kg ram carried wool figures of 20.3 microns, 2.7 SD, 13.3 CV and 99.7pc CF.
The North Ashrose ram was no stranger to broad ribbons as it had already been sashed the champion ram at the Burra SA Merino Expo and supreme exhibit at the Queensland state sheep show earlier this year.
Despite not taking out the highest awards, the WA team dominated the medium and strong wool classes taking out three of the top four awards in these sections.
Leading the charge in the WA team was the Willemenup stud, Gnowangerup, which gained plenty of praise after two Poll Merino ewes from the stud stood head and shoulders above the rest not only physically but also in the eye of the judges in both the strong and medium wool classes.
In the medium wool section it was the stud's supreme exhibit from this year's Williams Gateway Expo, Eweness, which shone through to be sashed the grand champion medium wool ewe.
Medium wool Poll Merino judge Richard Halliday, Callowie stud, Bordertown, South Australia, described the ewe as really big, with plenty of width right through and all the characteristics of a top breeder.
"She is a tremendous ewe with plenty of scale and volume, plus she carries a long-stapled, stylish wool well down," Mr Halliday said.
"The further you get down her the better she gets."
The ewe, which was also sashed the champion medium wool Poll Merino ewe and champion August shorn medium wool Poll Merino ewe, earned the right to compete for the champion ribbons after winning its initial class for medium wool, August shorn, Poll Merino ewes for ewes showing no more than four permanent teeth in front of five other ewes.
The ET-bred ewe, which was sired by Collinsville Majestic and out of a ewe sired by Angenup Willy, carried wool figures of 18.6 microns, 2.9 SD, 15.6 CV and 99.8pc CF.
However, not to be outdone by her full ET-sister, another Willemenup ewe, Pumpkin, was sashed the grand champion strong wool ewe.
Judge Richard House described this ewe as a good strong wool type, with a big carcase and a free-growing fleece.
"She is the type of ewe, you want out in the paddock and breeding from," he said.
"She is a magnificent ewe with a backend any British Breed breeder would love to have and a good spring of rib.
"In addition she carries a very bulky, long-stapled, quality strong wool fleece."
The ET-bred ewe, which was sired by Collinsville Majestic and out of a ewe sired by Angenup Willy, carried wool figures of 21.8 microns, 3.4 SD, 15.6 CV and 99.2pc CF.
After initially winning its class for strong wool, August shorn, Poll Merino ewes showing six permanent teeth ahead of three other ewes the ewe was also sashed the champion August shorn strong wool Poll Merino ewe and champion strong wool Poll Merino ewe.
The success for the Willemenup stud continued when it represented WA for the first time in the national pair competition with its winning pair from the Wagin Woolorama.
In a close call, which saw the smallest of margins separate the top three pairs in the competition, the Willemenup Poll Merino pair was sashed the reserve champion behind a pair of ultrafine Merinos from the Grathlyn stud, Mudgee, NSW.
Judge Richard House said the Willemenup pair stood up very well and only narrowly missed out on the top award.
"You couldn't get any closer, it was very hard to split with every pair getting votes," he said.
"The Willemenup pair are big, bulky sheep and a good representation of the modern Merino."
Accompanying the stud's champion medium wool ewe, Eweness, in the pair was an ET-bred ram by Winston, which measured 18.7 micron, 2.9 SD, 15.5 CV and 99.8pc CF.
WA made it a clean sweep in the medium wool section when a Poll Merino ram from the Blight family's Seymour Park stud, Highbury, was sashed the grand champion medium wool ram.
But it was not only the judges' eyes it caught, there was also plenty of interest being shown in it when it returned to the pen from Merino breeders across Australia.
When the upstanding, white-woolled ram was sashed the grand champion medium wool Merino judge Errol Brumpton, Wellgully stud, Mitchell, Queensland, described the ram as wonderful, with depth of body and a long-stapled, free-growing wool with great crimp definition.
"He has a straight topline, great neck extension and a lovely wide hock and broad hindquarter," he said.
"He also has an even fibre distribution and is a very safe sheep to breed from."
Mr Halliday said the ram was the complete package and had everything you looked for.
"He has scale, volume, a big barrel and is covered in a pure wool right to the floor," he said.
"He has great finish in the wool and a tremendous underline."
The ram started on its winning way after placing first in its class for August shorn, medium wool rams showing no more than four permanent teeth ahead of six other rams and from there it was also sashed the champion medium wool Poll Merino ram and champion August shorn medium wool Poll Merino ram.
The ram, which carried wool figures of 20.6 microns, 2.7 SD, 13.1 CV and 99.8pc CF was no stranger to broad ribbons. Already this year it was sashed the grand champion Poll Merino ram at both the Wagin Woolorama and Williams Gateway Expo.
With this year's team dominated by Poll Merinos there was further success in the Poll Merino championships for WA breeders.
Standing reserve behind the North Ashrose ram in the strong wool Poll Merino championship and being sashed the reserve champion strong wool Poll Merino ram was a top young sire from the East Mundalla stud, Tarin Rock.
The upstanding sire earned the right to compete for this championship after being sashed the champion March shorn strong wool Poll Merino ram and winning its class for March shorn strong wool Poll Merino rams showing not more than two permanent teeth ahead of 22 other entries.
Judge Richard House said the East Mundalla ram showed good balance, good leg placement, sound structure and a good carcase.
"He also has a very soft, strong head and carries a bold crimping, soft-handling wool," Mr House said.
The top young sire was by East Mundalla Elliot and a grandson of Woolkabin Wrangler and carried wool figures of 21.9 microns, 3.3 SD, 15.1 CV, 99.5pc CF.
Also playing second fiddle to the North Ashrose ram in the strong wool judging ring was a long-bodied, deep Poll sire from the Rintoul family's Auburn Valley stud, Williams.
The Auburn Valley ram finished second to the North Ashrose sire in their initial class for six tooth August shorn, strong wool Poll Merino rams, before going on to be sashed the reserve champion August shorn strong wool Poll Merino ram behind the North Ashrose champion.
Mr House said the Auburn Valley ram was a very good sheep, but just unlucky to come up against such a good sheep in the North Ashrose ram.
"He is a bulky, deep ram with good balance," he said.
"He also carries a heavy-cutting, strong wool."
The Auburn Valley ram was sired by Coromandel Jock, a sire the stud purchased from Coromandel at the Rabobank Katanning ram sale in 2010.
The ram measured 21.7 micron, 2.8 SD, 12.9 CV and 99.8pc CF.
Rounding out the WA studs to win a broad ribbon was the Jackson family's Westerdale stud, McAlinden, which exhibited the reserve champion August shorn fine/medium wool Poll Merino ram.
Judge Robert Harding said the Westerdale ram was a long-bodied ram with an open head and a good stapled rich wool.
The Westerdale ram measured 21 microns, 3.3 SD, 15.7 CV and 99.5pc CF and was based on pure Westerdale bloodlines.
Missing out on a broad ribbon but putting up a good fight in the largest class in the show was the Eastville Park stud, Wickepin.
In the March shorn, medium wool class for Poll rams showing no more than two permanent teeth, which attracted 42 entries, a well-grown, plain-bodied Poll sire from the stud finished second.
The ram, which measured 21.2 microns, 2.9 SD, 13.7 CV and 99.8pc CF, has already shown potential this year when it was sashed the champion March shorn exhibit at the Williams Gateway Expo.
Other WA studs to exhibit at the show were Claypans, Belmont Park, Pyramid Polls, Cardiff, Mianelup, Rangeview, Coromandel, Merna, Quailerup West and Manunda.
With the trip an expensive one for the studs they were also appreciative of the sponsorship they received from Milne Feeds (pellets to the value of $2540) as well as Auburn Valley Grazing Company and Lock Livestock which donated feed products for the trip.