NEW South Wales ultrafine wool growers Irene and Daryl Croake took special pleasure from their winning of the 2019 Cleckheaton Grand Champion Fleece Trophy.
Their overall best fleece in the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association fleece competition was a first for the ultrafine flock at Pyramul, between Mudgee and Bathurst, and it was achieved after a difficult few years.
“It is still very tough up here yet, we’ve destocked a bit, cut our numbers back, but it has been a tough two or three years really,” Mr Croake said.
The Croakes also won the 90s count and Mudgee region classes in the awards. Their champion 14.2 micron paddock-grown fleece weighed about 2.9kg skirted and was from a three year-old homebred wether.
Mr Croake said for the last 3-4 years the couple had transferred property to their son and would normally run about 1200 sheep on their remaining house block, but have cut back to 800 head due to the tough seasons.
The Croakes have been consistent winners of fleece awards over the years – including winning the Zegna award three times in the 2000s – but Mr Croake said 2019 was their best performance in the ASWGA awards and the first time they won the Cleckheaton title. They have been supporting the competition with fleeces since it began in 2013.
“It’s a great thing – we’ve been in the industry for a long while, though we are winding down slowly now.
“It is great to be recognised for all the work that we’ve done,” he said.
“Over the years we’ve won a lot of other awards for different things, but we haven’t actually cracked this one, we have been placegetters but not the actual winner.”
Mr Croake said although the future of ultrafine wool seems “a bit shaky” with demand from mills not as strong as years ago, he is confident of the future for the fibre.
However, to stay viable the Croakes have tried to adapt their sheep to the changing market.
“I think what we try to is put a bit more (wool) weight on them and even if the micron drops back a bit (goes broader) they will cut a bit more wool.
“Even if you go to 16-17 micron and cut another half a kilogram you will probably be in front I think.”
Fleece competition presentations were made at the recent ASWGA dinner in Armidale on 18 May.
“We are delighted to win the ASWGA Fleece Competition and to bring home a beautiful trophy, plaque and certificates sponsored by Bendigo Woollen Mill and The Australian Yarn Company.
“We appreciate the work done by ASWGA in offering the fleece competition and the generosity of Bendigo Woollen Mill and The Australian Yarn Company in sponsoring the many awards,” Mrs Croake said.
“It was a great weekend in Armidale with a full lecture day at “Kirby” woolshed, a lovely dinner, an informative visit to Mark and Lesleann Waters farm at “Edington” and a wonderful chance to catch up with friends from all over.”
The award judges were David Hart of Landmark and Ustralian Wool Innovation trade consultant Scott Carmody.
Mark & Lesleann Waters of ‘Riverton’, Armidale NSW, first in the Class 74s and Class 70s.
Janet & Tony Gall of ‘Wilsons Creek’, Uralla NSW, first in the Class 80s and first in the New England Region.
Penny & Russell Hartwich of ‘Kelseldale’, Ballyrogan, Victoria, tied with Heather & Geoff Phillips of ‘Currawong’, Tatyoon for first place in the Ararat/Barunah region.
Andrew & Stuart Drinnan of ‘FibreFine Merinos’, Malmsbury Vic, first place in the Albury/Wodonga region.
Trevor & Kathy Mibus of ‘Glenara Merinos’ Dunkeld, Victoria, first in the Hamilton region.
Robyn & John Ive of ‘Talaheni’, Yass Valley, NSW, first in the Goulburn/Yass region.
Irene & Daryl Croake of ‘Oak Hills’, Mudgee, NSW, first in the class 90s, and first in the Mudgee region.
Carolyn & Allan Phillips of ‘Glen Stuart’ Deddington, Tasmania, first in the Tasmanian region.
James & Faye Pepper of ‘Mumballview’, Mumballup, Western Australia, first in the West Australian region.
The ASWGA also thanked the AWTA for arranging the testing and transport of fleeces for judging, and Roberts Ltd, Australian Wool Network, Schute Bell Badgery Lumby and Landmark/Jackson of Geelong for facilitating the judging, collection and transportation of the members’ fleeces.