AUSTRALIA’S biggest sheep and wool show returns to Bendigo this month for the first time in three years.
After having to cancel the show due to COVID two years in a row – including being forced to shut the gates at the 11th hour for a snap statewide lockdown last year – organisers of the 145th Australian Sheep and Wool Show organisers are determined the 2022 extravaganza will be well worth the wait.
They have adoped the mantra “third time’s the charm” and Australian Sheep Breeders Association chief executive officer Margot Falconer said the show is back “in full swing”, with exhibitors from every state at the Bendigo Showgrounds from July 15-17.
“Meat breeds are attracting record prices and the sheep industry as a whole is in a strong position.
“This event is where people come to showcase and benchmark against the rest of Australia,” she said.
“And we can’t wait to welcome everyone back.”
Almost 3000 sheep will be at the show and Ms Falconer said pre-ticket sales are about 20 percent up on the same time last year, with sites are almost sold out.
“We’re comfortable with the number of sheep entries so far, given it’s our first show for three years.”
A major highlight will be the appearance of two breeds in the show ring for the first time, with four classes of Ultrawhites and 11 classes of Charollais sheep catalogued.
In another first, the Australian Meat Industry Council will stage the Central Victorian Regional Final of its annual Sausage King competition during the Festival of Lamb, which also includes cooking demonstrations and tastings.
The feature breed for 2022 remains the Border Leicester, which missed out on the limelight the past two years, and the charity partner to benefit from the Australian Fleece Competition is Lifeline.
More than $180,000 has been donated to various worthy causes since 2001, as wool growers donate fleeces to be auctioned for charity after judging.
The Northern Shears competition opens the shearing industry’s competitive season at Bendigo and also serves as the only qualification event for the Victorian Shearing and Wool Handling Championships final the following day.
On the main arena, working dogs and their handlers will showcase their incredible sheep mustering skills during the Central Victorian Yard Dog Championships.
Ms Falconer said there were no vaccination nor QR code check-in requirements for the public, though patrons were recommended to practice social distancing and wear a mask if they felt unable to do so.
She said the support of the sheep and wool community, and associated businesses, had been crucial to keeping the ASWS afloat in the face of “drastic losses” from last year’s sudden closure.
Some members gave cash donations, others bought life memberships, while contractors heavily discounted their fees and many sponsors and siteholders left their funds invested for this year, she said.
“The state and federal governments have offered us some financial support, but our members and suppliers have been overwhelmingly generous in ensuring the future viability of the event.”
The event is now insured against another COVID closure, providing reassurance for participants, with about 10,000 visitors expected through the turnstiles each day.
Several networking opportunities are available throughout the ASWS, including the Stud Masters
Muster on the Friday night and Sponsors and Breeders Cocktail Party on the Saturday evenig, when the Grand Champion fleece award will be presented and one lucky breeder will win a Paton feeder.
Australian Wool Innovation wool ambassador Catriona Rowntree, emerging fashion designer Emily Riggs, Kristen Staveley from Achmea Farm Insurance and AFL legend Billy Brownless will entertain guests at the sold-out Women of Wool lunch.
Tomorrow’s industry leaders can be inspired in the Careers and Technology Hub, which focuses on job opportunities and innovative practices and includes a keynote address by agriculture teacher and PhD candidate Scott Graham on how urban students hold the key to the sector’s future.
Other highlights include live Merino and Dorper ram sales; twice-daily fashion parades in the Noble Pavilion (Friday, 11am, 3pm; Saturday/Sunday, 11am, 2pm); Australia’s largest fibre market; and the creative genius of Woolcraft Competition entrants, with the theme The World Through Textiles.
About 450 sites will be scattered around the venue, including over 300 featuring food, fashion, gifts and homewares. This is alongside 50-plus livestock displays and another 50 featuring agricultural trade products and services.
Ms Falconer thanked major partners Australian Community Media, Australian Wool Innovation, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Achmea Farm Insurance and the Australian Wool Testing Authority and gold sponsors Meat and Livestock Australia, Agriculture Victoria, Gallagher and the City of Greater Bendigo for their support. She extended her gratitude to all other sponsors.
The Australian Sheep and Wool Show is on at the Prince of Wales Showground in Bendigo from July 15-17. Tickets are available at www.sheepshow.com, starting at $24 for adults, $17 for concessions and $65 for families, with discounts for three-day passes. Children under 14 are free.