SA's POLL Merinos are highly sought after across Australia but in the judging ring at the Elders SA Stud Merino Expo at Burra last Tuesday, it was a horned sheep that rose to the top.
A magnificent 140 kilogram strong-woolled, 23-month-old Merino ram from Jim, Robert and James Sullivan and families, Greenfields stud, Hallett, caught the eye of judge Garry Kopp, Towalba stud, Peak Hill, NSW, and was named Ram of the Year.
Mr Kopp admired the make and shape of the 23-micron winner.
"He stands over so much ground, he carries his wool right down underneath and has very good belly wool for a strong ram," he said.
"He has a beautiful horn set and it flows right through the width of him."
Mr Kopp also praised the medium wool ram from the Meyer family's Mulloorie stud, Brinkworth, in reserve but said the ram was not as well finished as the top ram.
The Greenfields ram H3.1, and a bold 20.9M medium wool ewe - both progeny of East Mundulla Jonty - combined to win the Merino pairs from 13 entries.
The Sullivan family now have the opportunity to represent SA in the National Pairs judging at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show in Bendigo, Vic, in July.
It was the second time Greenfields has achieved the impressive feat - winning both classes in 2011.
"It is hard enough to win one class with the good competition so to win two is a real privilege," Robert Sullivan said.
Last year's winners Mulloorie finished second and third.
The All Purpose Pen of Two Ram Lambs section has grown into one of the highlights of the event, showcasing the dual purpose strength of the SA Merino.
Graham, Tom and Matt Ashby and families, North Ashrose, Gulnare, took out the $1000 cash prize from Rosenberg Machinery Group Holdings, with two 10-month-old AI sons of White River 2322.
Tag 3556 was 91kg with a 32mm eye muscle depth and 3.5mm of fat and fleece measurements of 18M, 3.2M standard deviation, 18 per cent co-efficient of variation and 99.8pc comfort factor, while tag 3506 was a 16.7M ram lamb with 3.1M SD, 18.3pc CV and 100pc CF.
He weighed 88kg with an EMD of 32mm and fat of 4.5mm.
Stud principal Tom Ashby said they were working hard on carcase traits in their breeding program, lifting body weight and producing more early maturing progeny, and while they had not put huge emphasis on eye muscle area, it had lifted as well.
"We have been runner-up a few times so it is nice to win one," he said.
They finished well clear of the second placed pair of Poll Merinos from Greenfields.
The wool section was judged by Mr Kopp, with Clayton Rowett, Ulandi Park Poll Dorsets, Marrabel, the meat judge.
See next week's Stock Journal for full coverage of the event.