THE Merino section of the Make Smoking History Wagin Woolorama, to be held this Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, has always been richly sponsored and this year stud breeders will be competing for a share of $35,000 in money and prizes.
The past few years has seen something of a resurgence in exhibitor and sheep entries as a result of high sheep and wool prices and greater demand for Merino sires.
It is the encouragement breeders need to fund the never-ending quest for better genetics and Woolorama has been an import event to showcase the year’s up and coming sires.
The pinnacle of Friday’s judging culminates in the sashing of the supreme grand champion sheep which earns its breeder the ultimate prize of a four-wheel motor bike donated by Elders and Farm Weekly.
In the lead up to selecting the winner, the judges work through 36 classes for superfine, fine, medium fine, medium and strong wool rams and ewes and each class generously carries $250 for the winner.
The section is also known for its great array of trophies and this year Merino head steward Peter Foley has made a decision that is sure to be welcomed by winners.
He said the wives of stud breeders had spoken and said they don’t need another set of glasses or towels.
Instead Mr Foley has decided there will be useful trophies like socket sets and tool boxes.
This year the section has embraced the committee’s youth, vitality and innovation focus by inviting two associate judges.
This year’s main judges Ross McGauchie, Terrick West stud, Victoria, Justin Boughen, Kamora-Netley Park stud, South Australia stud, and local stud man Craig Dewar, Woodyarrup stud, Gnowangerup, will be joined by up and coming trainees Lauren Rayner, Brookton and Scott Button, Manunda stud, Tammin.
Ms Rayner is passionate about wool and Merinos and has taken a vastly different career path from her twin sister Kirrily who is in her third year of nursing.
She graduated from the Narrogin Agricultural College in 2016 and has already gained considerable experience as a young leader in the sheep and wool industry.
In 2016 Ms Rayner competed in the National Merino Challenge in Sydney, finishing second overall then in 2017 she competed in the national Merino judging finals at the South Australian Sheep Expo.
Last year she was awarded the 2018 Bendat Family Youth Scholarship, awarded to a youth in Western Australia who is enrolled in a bachelor level course at an Australian University.
Ms Rayner is currently studying animal, crop and pasture science at Murdoch University.
She has attained her wool classer stencil and hopes to be involved in the wool industry at some level and has done work experience with Elders stud stock representative Nathan King.
Ideally, Ms Rayner would like to breed Merinos and the opportunity may present itself in the future on her parents’ farm which currently runs 2000 Merino breeding ewes and also a Shorthorn cattle herd.
Mr Button is already known within Merino circles and has judged in his own right at the Williams Gateway Expo for the past two years, as well at other local shows.
For him the Woolorama opportunity is another step along the pathway to becoming a senior judge with the experience to adjudicate at the highest possible level.
Mr Button welcomes the opportunity to work alongside interstate and local judges and see sheep from another person’s perspective.
It will be a chance to see how they go about their task and learn different tips and methods for picking the top animals and communicating with their audiences.
Among the section’s other major sponsors are Universal Feeders, South Australian company Rod’s Blocks, Landmark, Milne Feeds, Countryman and Australian Wool Innovation Limited.
Local AWI woolgrower services manager and section compere Graeme Curry said Woolorama would be a good opportunity for producers to meet new AWI chairman Colette Garnsey and some of the other board members.