Two-tooth judging: ‘People’s choice’

Having judges unavailable didn't stop Merino farmers taking to the road to select the best two-tooth ewes in the region against a backdrop of some of the finest high country, reports Tim Cronshaw.

Farmers stepped in when Covid-19 unsettled the judging line-up at the Canterbury Merino Association’s two-tooth ewe flock competition.

The champion flock was decided by a people’s favourite vote by the farmers after one judge fell ill and another made himself unavailable.

Lake Coleridge Station was declared the winner to the credit of owner Bruce Miles and managers Mark and Rebecca Rose.

But it was a close-run thing with only one point separating their flock and Philip Todhunter and Anne Palmer’s two-tooths at Lake Heron Station.

In third place was Paul and Prue Ensor at Rakaia Gorge’s Glenaan Station.

The competition was last held in 2018, but the winning Glenthorne Station was not in the field this year.

Merino farmers didn’t let a shortage of judges ruin the Canterbury Merino Association’s two-tooth...
Merino farmers didn’t let a shortage of judges ruin the Canterbury Merino Association’s two-tooth ewe flock competition. PHOTO: PAUL ENSOR
A two-day tour started near Waiau with about 60 farmers visiting five properties to gauge the young merinos, and another five farms were assessed in the second day near Rakaia and Ashburton gorges.

Competition organiser Paul Ensor said the judging situation was challenging, but the event was still a success and continued with safety precautions in place.

"It was basically more of a people’s choice result, but we had a pretty educated crowd with our chairman Graham Reed facilitating the crowd voting. I guess the competition was more about the conversation and we heard about the different management techniques on farms and how to get the best out of your genetics."

He said this was valuable, as half of the competitors were a new generation of farmers who hadn’t been in the competition before.

"It was good for them to see what people who had been around for a while were doing."

Mr Ensor said the uniformity of the Lake Coleridge’s flock and consistent wool quality with beautifully even crimping and bright white wool gave it the edge over the other flocks.

Two-tooths were in good condition with feed in plentiful supply after a wet season.

Mr Ensor said this created its own challenges with footrot and wool quality as wool didn’t always like a lot of moisture and could become "washed out" by a lot of rain.

"Certainly the flocks that did well handled the seasonal conditions well. The climatic conditions have been challenging, but it’s good to see that the merino can handle these conditions and show their versatility."

Mr Ensor said there was some healthy debate that high lamb prices would swing the balance away from wool towards more lamb production.

"A couple of people in the audience were concerned how this would affect the wool quality with the focus on lamb production. Lake Coleridge lambed 120 percent for their mixed age ewes so it shows we can do both. There was a lot of talk about the dual purpose modern merino and certainly they had them there."

He said the Lake Coleridge team deserved credit as they normally had a sheep classer, but Covid-19 meant he was stuck in Australia and they had to do the work themselves the past two years.

Lake Coleridge’s two tooths averaged 18.8 microns, Lake Heron 21 microns and Glenaan 16 microns.

Mr Ensor said their Glenaan flock would probably move closer to 17-18 microns as they were transitioning to dual purpose sheep with stronger wool as part of a large development programme to breed and finish more lambs.

At the prize-giving ceremony, Lake Heron was awarded the wool constitution and confirmation trophy and the Grampians won the Gordie McMaster trophy for most improved flock.

Farmers enjoyed a four-wheel drive through Mt Mason at Hawarden during the tour.

Merino two-tooth tour route as follows.

Day one:

Chris and Emily Nicolson, Hamish and Grace Roxburgh at Barcaldine,Waiau.

Jono and Sarah Reed, Graham and Ann Reed at Grampians, Culverden.

Beau McRae at Glens of Tekoa, Hurunui.

Will Jamison, Robin and Phillipa Jamison at Mt Mason, Hawarden.

Merino farmers run the rule over two-tooths at Lake Heron Station during the Canterbury Merino...
Merino farmers run the rule over two-tooths at Lake Heron Station during the Canterbury Merino Association’s two-tooth ewe flock competition. PHOTO: PAUL ENSOR
Rupert Hansen, Brian and Margaret Hansen at Bonjedward, Waikari.

Day two:

Bruce Miles, Mark and Rebecca Rose at Lake Coleridge Station, Lake Coleridge.

Ross Bowmar and Jess Ensor at Redcliffs, Rakaia Gorge.

Paul and Prue Ensor at Glenaan, Rakaia Gorge.

Philip Todhunter and Anne Palmer at Lake Heron at Clent Hills Yards.

Philip Wareing and Alan McIntyre at Mt Arrowsmith, Lake Heron.

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