Woman judge relishing the role

Georgie Wallace, of Tasmania, with the supreme champion sheep at the Wanaka A&P Show, a merino...
Georgie Wallace, of Tasmania, with the supreme champion sheep at the Wanaka A&P Show, a merino ram owned by the Paterson family from Gimmerburn. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
It was appropriate that, on International Women's Day, Georgie Wallace was in the sheep pens at the Wanaka A&P Show.

Mrs Wallace was judging merino sheep - the first female merino judge ever at the show - and she was loving the task.

Not that firsts were something new to the Tasmanian merino breeder - she is the immediate past-president of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, the first female president of the organisation.

From a 7500ha property near Ross, in the middle of Tasmania, Mrs Wallace manages the Trefusis merino stud which her late father established in 1963 and which was known for its superfine wool.

As well as the stud, she and her husband, Hamish, had about 13,000 composite ewes, so had a sizeable fat lamb operation, and they also traded a few cattle.

Her husband looked after that part of the business, while she was in charge of the stud.

"The stud is my baby. I fly the flag for the mighty merino," she said.

One of four daughters, she grew up on the farm and always had a passion for merino sheep and their fibre.

Leaving school, she was not sure what she wanted to do and her parents suggested she come home. She worked on the home farm for four years before getting married, and buying a farm elsewhere in Tasmania.

She had always been surrounded by men on the farm and being a female in a largely male-dominated industry was never something that she "banged on about".

"It was never an issue. We were just expected to do whatever the men were doing," she said.

Following succession planning, Mrs Wallace and her husband returned to her family farm in 2007. They had an on-farm ram sale every November. They had also enjoyed considerable success with both fleeces and sheep at the Bendigo sheep show - where the "cream of the crop" of sheep in Australia were exhibited.

It was very satisfying to be competitive when, in relative terms compared to many other, it was only a small stud, she said.

Mrs Wallace loved judging sheep and meeting people at shows.

She had judged in all states in Australia but it was her first time judging in New Zealand.

She was not hampered by having a foot in a "moonboot", after foot surgery.

She was blown away by the Wanaka showgrounds, saying it was possibly the most spectacular showgrounds she'd ever seen. And she had never seen a main ring so lush and "beautifully manicured".

She was very impressed with the "excellent" line-up of merinos at the show, saying the winning sheep would be extremely competitive in Australia.

Supreme champion sheep of the show was won by a merino ram owned by the Paterson family, from the Armidale stud, at Gimmerburn, while the champion ewe came from Robbie Gibson's Malvern Downs stud, at Tarras.

Mrs Wallace still got a buzz when she opened up a fleece and discovered a "special" one.

She and her daughter Annabel were in New Zealand for nine days and had an opportunity to visit some merino properties. They had enjoyed great hospitality, she said.

A mini-world merino conference is being held in Central Otago, next year in conjunction with Wanaka A&P Show.

Robbie Gibson, who is organising the event, said it was hoped to attract several hundred people.

It is being run by the Merino Stud Breeders and it will correspond with Wanaka Show, which will feature the breed, while the conference will be held in Cromwell.

Mr Gibson expected a large increase in the number of entries and exhibitors.

 

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