THE first phone calls Illabarook Merino breeder George McKenzie’s wife Helen made when their Montrose Hill stud ewe reigned supreme at the 2018 Australian Sheep and Wool Show were to his 96 year-old mother Lucy.
When the six-tooth ewe was judged sashed grand champion Merino ewe and then supreme Merino exhibit of about 800 at the show, the accolades sparked an emotional high every Australian Merino breeder hopes for, but few get to experience.
“My mum and dad started the property off in 1947 and we’ve been sheep breeders the whole time and to get to the pinnacle of this is just absolutely wonderful.
“Mum was absolutely stoked — she is just as excited as we are,” Mr McKenzie said.
“My father Ron died 35 years ago and I’ve started the stud up since then and dad was always a very passionate sheep breeders and I’ve sort of inherited that gene I think.
“We are a family operation and it’s not just for me or for Helen, it’s for the family,” he said.
“To go to a show hoping to win the ultrafine ewe and you come home with the supreme it’s not a bad mistake actually.”
Mrs McKenzie later took the stud’s trophies and sashes to her mother-in-law at her Ballarat retirement home, where the two women suggested the ewe now needed a name. He jokingly suggested her tag number, ruling out ‘Lucy’, which was the name given to a previous reserve champion at Melbourne.
“I tell you what, if she wins at Dubbo (National Merino Show and Sale) I will have a name for her, I can guarantee that,” he said.
He has already had some offers to buy the ewe.
“If they put their money where their mouth is I might sell her too.”
Mr McKenzie said the stud has had fine wool grand champions before and the ewe was March shorn ultrafine champion at Bendigo last year as a two tooth. The ewe’s sire and the stud’s lead superfine ram, Montrose Hill 032, was grand champion superfine ram at Bendigo two years ago.
“The whole plan was to show her this year and we were crutching last year and the shearers were there crutching and I was out the back drenching.
“She was coming down the race with 650 maiden ewes and she just stood out in amongst those,” he said.
“We pulled her out and shore her up two days before we did our March tagging and we tagged her.
“We showed her three times for three grand championships last year and this year we have shown her twice,” Mr McKenzie said.
“She was grand champion superfine ewe at Balmoral and then grand champion ultra here.
“We will be taking her to Dubbo, but she is heavy in lamb with twins, so we won’t be showing her again in Victoria.”
Montrose ewe was the ‘complete package’
Judge John Freeman said the ultrafine 15.5 micron ewe was the complete package.
“She is as good underneath as she is on top.”
He said the Langdene ram, the grand champion Merino ram shown by the Cox family from Dunedoo, was a great sheep too, but all judges agreed the ewe was the supreme winner on the day.
The ET-bred Langdene grand champion fine wool ram was sired by Langdene 110075 was also one half of the stud’s winning entry in the prestigious National Pairs competition at the show.
Mr Cox said it was the first time the central New South Wales stud had won the National Pairs since first representing the state in 2005. He said the judges liked the soft wool, length of staple and rich supple skin on the ram. He will now be offered for sale at the Dubbo ram sale in late August.
“We’ve got a fair influence of that family in our flock.”
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