NEW South Wales’ Conrayn Merino Stud has won the prestigious grand champion fleece prize at this year’s Australian Fleece Competition.
This is the second grand champion title awarded to the stud’s principals Peter and Jayne Lette, who previously won in 2010, the competition’s 10th anniversary.
The Lettes also this year won the competition’s reserve champion award with another fleece.
The Australian Fleece Competition is the largest fully measured fleece competition in the world, attracting more than 400 entries from 145 exhibiters.
The competition is a joint effort by the Australian Sheep Breeders Association (ASBA), Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) & Nutrien Ag Sloutions, and is run in conjunction with the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, which was to be held in Bendigo this week, but was cancelled yesterday.
Competition organisers said almost two thirds of the fleeces on show were donated by exhibitors to be auctioned at the completion of the competition, with all proceeds donated to a different nominated charity each year, which this year is the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The competition has raised more than $178,000 since its inception.
The Lette’s grand champion 17.8 micron fleece was in the Superfine Merino Stud Ram class, and scored 94.52 out of a possible 100 points.
Jayne Lette said she was thrilled to receive the award.
“Peter and I couldn’t believe it when we were told that we had won, and to receive the reserve champion award as well was a great surprise.”
Their reserve champion fleece came from the Superfine Merino Stud Ewe or Wether class, measured 17.7 micron and gained 94.43 points.
The champion commercial fleece was exhibited by L & M Harris, from Costerfield, Victoria, with a 20.1 micron fleece in the Fine Medium Merino Ewe/Wether section, that scored 92.83 points.
Judges for this year’s competition were Endeavour Wool Exports director Josh Lamb and Ian Shawcross from Nutrien/Arcadian Wool in Geelong, Victoria.
Mr Shawcross praised the standard of entries this year, with the winning fleece in a number of classes prevailing by only a fraction of a point.
“Any one of four or five entries could have easily won each section, as well as the grand champion,” he said.
Mr Lamb highlighted the differences from when he judged the competition in 2019.
“The previous competition certainly reflected the conditions at the time, with a large number of commercial entries impacted by lower yields and lower tensile strength.
“This year, we could see a major turnaround, again reflecting the better conditions in most areas,” he said.
“Processing requirements and purchase price are dictated by a number of factors, but strength and yield are key indicators.”
Competition convener, Nutrien Wool’s Candice Cordy, said that she was proud to reach a great milestone this year, celebrating 20 years of the competition.
“After the disappointment of cancelling the competition in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, it is wonderful to see the support from sponsors AND exhibitors hasn’t waned.
“If anything we have seen the competition expand in its 20th year,” she said.
Ms Cordy said the commercial value component of the competition, giving growers a snapshot of current trends also offered a valuable tool to assist in decision making regarding flock management and direction.
The competition was supported by 26 sponsors and offers $17,000 in prizes, with the grand champion fleece exhibitor collecting a $2000 travel voucher sponsored by Nutrien Wool and Gallagher.
Victorian producers J.D. & R.E. Humbert, Kedleston Park, were this year’s winners of the Performance Class, which caters for exhibitors shearing in six to eight-month cycles commercially, The Performance Class was extremely well supported, with growers keenly monitoring the outcome.
This year’s nominated charity is the Motor Neurone Disease Association whose vision is Working towards a world without MND. www.mnd.org.au
“MND Victoria have been closely involved in this year’s competition, and part of their mission is to provide the best possible care & support for people living with MND. Hopefully this a little closer due the generous support of the woolgrowers involved in the fleece competition,” Ms Cordy said.
All competition fleeces were weighed and sampled for objective measurement (including length and strength), under standard procedures of the Australian Wool Testing Authority.