REGRETTABLY for many in the Merino industry, the Rabobank Katanning Stud Show and Sale last Thursday was the final time rams prepared by Roy Mahony would be seen in any judging arena.
Roy has not been in the best of health for some time and as such he and wife Coral have decided to close their well known ram preparation shed, ending just under two decades of stud ram feeding and show and sale preparation.
How it all came about really goes back to the mid to late 1960s when Roy was a very enthusiastic pigeon fancier.
One of his great friends of similar interest was the late Fred Chadwick and he and Roy were the first to import racing pigeons from the UK.
In 1976, the Chadwick family registered their Darijon Merino stud and Roy, through his association with Fred, showed a keen interest in the stud.
In the early 1990s Roy was a linesman with SECWA (now Western Power) when he and Coral bought their Narrogin property from the Chadwicks.
In 1992 they built their new home and along with the Rhode Island Red chooks Roy is so famous for, moved lock stock and barrel from in town to their new home.
In 1993 Roy offered to try his hand at feeding and preparing a couple of rams the Chadwick brothers, Richard and John, had earmarked for showing, to which they agreed and Roy took it on in a shed on Richard's farm just over the road.
Once word got around that Roy was taking on ram feeding and preparation, he was approached by some other stud breeders the following year.
At that time, the only shed on the Mahony property was one built down the lower end to house their caravan.
The caravan was removed, grating was put down and that became the preparation shed.
Initially he had four clients - the Chadwicks of Darijon, the Mullans of Eastville Park, the Wades of Greenville and the Lewis's of Pallinup - all up a total of five rams.
One other stud breeder heard Roy was starting up his shed and was keen to start showing again.
That was Dick Garnett of Willemenup who was impressed enough to send up four rams, thus giving Roy a team of nine for the 1995 showing season.
Of those initial five clients all but the late Bill Wade of Greenville have put rams in Roy's shed every year since.
And, in that first year Roy had instant success with the late Bill Wade's Greenville Olympian 29.
At the 1995 Wagin Woolorama, Olympian was placed first in a line-up of 57 rams for the champion medium wool broad ribbon.
Success again for Roy's shed came at the Katanning stud show and sale that August when Greenville Olympian 29 was sashed supreme exhibit of the show.
At Wagin Woolorama six months later another supreme came out of the Mahony's shed when Darijon Callan was firstly sashed champion small breeders ram before going on to take the supreme exhibit ribbon.
With inquiries coming from other stud breeders, Roy extended the shed in 1995 and again in 1996 to that which it is today and over that time, rams from 37 Merino and Poll Merino studs from all points of the compass have been fed and prepared for either show and or sale.
With Roy retiring from Western Power in 1999 he was able take in more rams to the extent that generally he was looking after around 50 rams a year, peaking at 63 head in 2003.
A number of other studs also picked up supreme ribbons over the years but perhaps the major highlight for Roy and Coral was the success of Dick Garnett and family.
In 2001 and 2002, Willemenup Poll Merino rams prepared by Roy not only won at Katanning but went on to Dubbo and in both years, up against supreme champion rams from all other States, the two rams in their year were sashed Rabobank National Ram of the Year.
Speaking of his long association with Roy and Coral, Dick said Roy did a lot of research into feeding and preparation and swapped notes with well known nutritionist Dr John Milton.
"Roy was generous enough to pass on to other stud breeders preparing rams the knowledge he had gained when it came to feeding efficiency," Dick said.
"But on some matters he didn't mince his words and I admire him for taking a stance and most times he was right and occasionally he stepped on toes which really needed jumping on.
"Roy was also the instigator of taking a truckload of southern-bred rams to compete against those from the north at Eneabba Sheeparena.
The shed also became a training venue for trainees and staff from most stock firms.
In 2001, Landmark had 65 staff members there for one training session.
It also became a training venue for students from various agricultural colleges.
Over the years students from Harvey, Narrogin and Gnowangerup (when it was operating) travelled to the Mahony shed to learn some of the finer points of judging sheep.
A note from David Hart, farm manager at the WA College of Agriculture Harvey, is pertinent.
"Roy and Coral have been long-term supporters of agricultural education and particularly in passing on their knowledge of Merino sheep to hundreds of students enrolled at agricultural colleges and schools," he said.
"The WA College of Agriculture Harvey has enjoyed a special relationship with Roy and Coral over many years.
"The College and students are invited annually to attend Roy's ram shed where students are taught Merino ram selection using industry experts whom Roy and Coral recruit.
"Harvey College's successes at Wagin Woolorama over the years at the Merino team junior judging event was largely the result of having access to the Mahony's facilities and expertise."
Another who commented on Roy's involvement with college students was Terry Crapella, Willemenup, who was often one of those recruited for college training days.
"Roy has a great passion and enthusiasm for the Merino breed which was so obvious when students from the agricultural colleges turned up at the shed," Terry said.
"This passion for the breed also provided an opportunity for stud breeders who wanted to take a ram or two through to four-tooth stage but didn't have the time or facility to do it themselves.
"Without his involvement the full wool four-tooth industry would have come to a standstill."
Over the years Roy has established his reputation with Eastern States stud breeders as well.
Since 2003 he has played a major part in getting together a team of around 40 stud sheep for the Australian Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo, Victoria.
It isn't always just Merinos which have gone over in those years.
Often there were sheep of other breeds on board and those stud breeders were welcomed to Roy's load-out shed and they also became part of the family.
At last week's Rabobank Katanning Sheep Show, Roy received due recognition by members of the Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA with a plaque presented to Roy by association president Richard House.
Richard said that Roy had a passion for the Merino which started as a hobby and has turned out to be of great benefit to numerous studs and the industry in general as well as supporting growers in their quest to show their product to producers throughout the continent and overseas.
Although Roy wasn't present for the final judging at last week's Katanning Sheep Show, it was in a sense the finale to the closing of the Mahony ram shed.
Out on the judging arena for the final supreme exhibit judging were two ewes and two rams, with the two rams having come out of Roy's shed that morning.
The Poll Merino ram was from the Olinda stud, Wyalkatchem and the Merino ram was, fittingly, from where it all started, the Darijon stud.
The Olinda Poll was champion of his breed at Wagin and Williams and went over to Bendigo and was unfortunate not to be judged grand champion Poll Merino, however it did win, among his broad ribbons, the champion medium wool ram of the show.
Roy met Olinda stud principal Don Eaton through visiting the stud's on-property field day over 10 years ago and impressed with the Olinda sheep invited Don and family to put a ram or two into his shed.
Don was interested in taking rams through a shed to compare them with other sheep in the same environment and that aspect has brought about excellent results for the Olinda stud.
As those at the judging of the supreme at Katanning or readers of this issue would be aware, the supreme ribbon went to the Chadwick family's Darijon Merino.