Peter Westblade Challenge convener says make the most of quality Merinos on the market

Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge convenor, Craig Wilson, says there is no better time to improve the quality of Merino flocks.
Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge convenor, Craig Wilson, says there is no better time to improve the quality of Merino flocks.

Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge convenor Craig Wilson says the drought has given sheep producers their best chance in years to improve the quality of their Merinos. 

"I mean there's been no better time to change-over, get out of ordinary sheep into good ones because this has been quite a unique opportunity with a lot of people selling a lot of good sheep because the season's dictated that," Mr Wilson said.  

Mr Wilson conducted the fifth two-year Peter Westblade challenge, with the first shearing of 580 wethers completed in Wagga this week as part of the wool component of the trial.

With a lot of high performance bloodlines in the group, Mr Wilson said producers who invested in getting their breeding stock through the drought would reap the rewards. 

"Where we sit at the moment it's a bit of a challenge for people to keep their flocks going, keep feeding them, but I think long-term that's going to be a really good decision because the season's starting to break up a bit now and once we get good general rains I just think that Merino sheep are going to be really expensive," he said.  

Mr Wilson said although the sheep taking part were some of the best in the country, the more than a decade worth of data collected through the challenge showed differences between the wethers were significant.

"We can show about 60 per cent difference in net profitability through this trial, there's just huge variability," he said.

Genetic consultant Sally Martin said, so far, wool from the trial was very fine but no matter the results producers benefited from seeing how their sheep stacked up in a tough year.

"We want to see which animals actually perform well in this environment or these conditions versus in a really good season," Ms Martin said.

The challenge was especially useful for those producers who were long-time participants.

Jack Glasson from Jimenbuen Pastoral Company, Dalgety, has been taking part since the beginning, in 2004.

"The main reason for doing the trial is education, to find out where we can improve and areas where we're definitely not as strong as we could be," Mr Glasson said. 

His flock was based on Hazeldean and Greendale bloodlines but since partaking in the trial he has begun breeding his own rams and has replenished 90 per cent with his own stock. 

Winners of the fleece value will be announced when shearing completes at the end of this week.