The Merino industry has a proud heritage.
For more than 200 years, Merino sheep have been integral to the social, political and economic consciousness of this state.
Nowhere has that awareness been proven more than at the many Sydney Royal Sheep Shows.
Indeed, there was a time when the sheep show was a gathering independent of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW's annual Easter Show.
But times changed, the wool industry went into a spiral of lost viability and many Merino studs closed their gates and dispersed their stud sheep.
Some, however, have hung on and continue to exhibit their sheep in Sydney realising that, not only are they hoping to gain the glory of ribbons and trophies, but they acknowledge that their participation in the Sydney Royal Sheep Show is a tangible support of the wool industry.
One only had to watch the steady and consistent stream of people moving through the barriers past the judging over the Easter weekend, to know that the public are intrigued by what was happening on the mat.
And when a Merino ram was paraded alongside the barrier, the enthusiasm to touch the sheep and its wool was overwhelming.
The Sydney Royal Merino Sheep Show is the industry's window to the world.
Those who passed through the Cox Pavilion are potential buyers of a woollen garment.
By engaging with them, the industry has the chance to refute many of the misconceptions held about Merino sheep and wool, and might even gain dedicated aficionados of Merino wool.
It was disappointing, therefore, on many levels to see so few Merino sheep on the mat for judging.
One hundred and twenty sheep is hardly a fair representation of the wider industry, although it must be said, the sheep on display were of a very high standard of productivity and beauty.
It is accepted that not all stud Merino breeders consider it necessary to promote their stud sheep through the medium of the show floor.
There are many who are downright derisive of the virtues of preparing and showing sheep, believing they have the product their clients are demanding and are satisfied with. No one can argue against their prerogative.
But there are studmasters who have shown in the past and now say the cost of exhibiting in Sydney for a week is prohibitive.
A week in Bali would certainly be cheaper than a week at Sydney, but I know where I would rather be.
The experience of the tropical island is ephemeral, fleeting, whereas a few days in Sydney catching up with mates, industry peers and having your sheep compared against the best is a part of a long life of understanding and tradition.
Last minute changes to a studmaster's show schedule are understandable - the bush waits for no one.
But it must have been disheartening for the many interstate judges to have so few sheep paraded before them, no matter the quality.
It was to their credit they still gave each sheep, whether only one or two in the class, due courtesy and examined them thoroughly.
And where were the commercial sheep breeders who did not turn out in Sydney in support of their industry?
Maybe next year.
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