Schools' Merino Wethers Competition
The Competition’s Aims
The Schools Merino Wethers Competition is an event for encouraging young people to become familiar with, and possibly pursue a career within the Merino Industry. It also provides opportunity for students to have contact with many aspects of the Merino sheep industry from stud and commercial breeders, stock agents, wool buyers through to processors.
It aims to practically educate and engage students on the commercial production of Merino sheep by giving them a memorable ‘hands on’ experience covering a broad scope of sheep and wool production skills.
The Schools Merino Wethers Competition was set up in 2011 by the South Australian Stud Merino Sheepbreeders’ Association – also known as Merino SA – and has proved to be a successful collaborative effort between the State’s Stud Merino industry and participating high schools with agricultural studies in their curricular. Run within the program of the Royal Adelaide Show, in 2011 there were 21 entries of three sheep per entry, and the competition has seen rapid growth since its inception.
School wether competition outline (as at 2015)
The School Wether Competition comprises of 3 (three) Merino or Poll Merino wethers under 1½ years of age with no more than two permanent teeth.
Wethers must be shorn before, on or after the 1st of March of the current year, but at the time of inspection each wether will, allowing for natural growth shall not exceed the equivalent of 12.5 mm as at the 1st of March.
All wethers must be regulation tagged by two Merino SA representatives.
Wethers may be drawn from-
1. South Australian Merino and Poll Merino Studs
2. Commercial Merino or Poll Merino breeders within South Australia
3. An Agricultural school’s own flock
As an outcome of the preparation of sheep for the competition, students will get insight into numerous key components in good sheep management that include;
-Sheep selection based on subjective and objective assessment
-Show preparation for competition
-Handling. Both sheep and wool
-An understanding of profit drivers in Merino sheep production
Planning for School Wether Competition
Contact commercial or stud merino breeders to source wethers. It is advisable to have at least one if not two spare wethers for each team. When sourcing wethers consider young sheep to give them every chance of not getting their 4 teeth prior to the Show.
If your school requires help contacting a breeder, make enquires to Merino SA.
The schools can purchase wethers from a Merino producer at a fair average price.
February – March
Order regulation tags from Merino SA to tag all wethers, or alternately arrange for your Stud contact to order tags on your school’s behalf.
Each wether requires a regulation tag to be eligible for entry into the Royal Adelaide Show. This tag indicates that the sheep has been shorn in accordance with the SASMSA Shearing Regulations. It is also the tag used to identify the sheep for objective data collated on that animal. i.e. mid side sample wool tests. Should a regulation tag be lost from a wether (e.g. torn from the ear) a replacement tag can be sought from Merino SA, and will require tagging by an Association approved Shearing Inspector.
Wethers must be tagged, inspected, and weighed by a committee comprising of two inspectors, both of whom shall be members of Merino SA. Merino SA is pleased to provide a list of shearing inspectors to the school if required. The weight of the wethers shall be clearly noted in the “Private Tag Number / Tattoo” column of the ‘Shearing Inspection Report and Certificate of Exoneration’. The weight is to be rounded to the closest half kilogram. The inspectors will hand to the school representative the ‘yellow’ copy of the shearing inspection report, and return the ‘white’ and ‘blue’ copies of the report to the Merino SA office in a timely manner. If a Shearing Inspection Report is not received by Merino SA, the school’s exhibits will be deemed ineligible to compete.
Wethers must be treated with an appropriate animal husbandry chemical to ensure they are not infested with lice. Wethers with lice or have had long wool applications to eradicate lice are not permitted entry to the Royal Adelaide Show.
Do not assume your wethers are lice free at the point of shearing.
Wethers are to be cared for by students and teachers on school grounds or their associated agricultural facility at latest by inspection if not earlier.
March to September
A nutrition program needs to be formulated and applied by the students.
Wethers will need to be carefully introduced onto feed rations being careful not to cause acidosis (grain poisoning).
The program will need to consist of an induction ration then building on that right through to a finishing ration 6 weeks prior to the competition.
Animal nutritionist through local stock agents would be a good resource to ensure feeding requirements are adequate.
Wethers should be handled on a regular basis. This will ensure they become calm and relaxed around people. By doing this they will become easier to handle and put on weight more readily.
Haltering and leading the wethers is recommended.
Entry forms must be obtained from the Royal Adelaide Show. The closing date for entries is mid-July. It is recommended schools put their entries in early. The Show Society will not allow entries to be received beyond the specified date.
Mid-side sampling of the wethers’ wool will be taken in the first week of August. Schools will be sent sample bags and recording cards in late July.
The schools are to arrange for the mid side samples to be taken in the first week of August by two inspectors as per tagging requirements.
Wool samples are to be collected by the inspectors. These are then sent away for testing to an approved testing laboratory. The test results will be forwarded from the laboratory to Merino SA for collation, and sent back to the schools ideally prior to the end of August. These wool tests should then be used to select the wethers for the competition along with subjective appraisals. If unsure with the final selections of your team, contact a local stud breeder for advice.
Wethers will require a small crutch or `bung hole` to enhance presentation and keep the britch of the sheep clean.
It is advisable to weigh wethers each month to monitor weight gain.
Also check the wethers’ teeth to ensure each sheep has no more than two permanent teeth as per entry requirements. Wethers with more than two teeth at the Royal Adelaide Show will be deemed ineligible to compete.
Prior to travelling to the Royal Adelaide Show make sure the wethers have their regulation tag in place and have no more than two permanent teeth.
A National Vendor Declaration and Animal Health Statement must accompany the wethers in transit to the Royal Adelaide Show. These are legal documents and are to be presented to the sheep office (located in the sheep shed).
Wethers will not be permitted to be unloaded without these documents.
The Royal Adelaide Show will make available vehicle passes for schools to unload their exhibits on the Tuesday afternoon of the Show.
Schools are also required to take to the Show the appropriate feed rations for the wethers, sufficient for the five day Wednesday-Sunday period while being held in the Stud Sheep Pavilion at the Adelaide Showground.
Promotion of Bloodlines at the Show
Merino SA has a policy that studs that assist schools are not to promote or have promoted their bloodlines through the competition. The Association considers that the focus of the competition is to encourage students’ interest in the wool and sheepmeat industries and enhance their skill development.
Proceeds from the Competition
Merino SA collects the proceeds received from the sale of the fleece wool and the wethers themselves, and takes out a small percentage to cover costs associated with the event (such as cartage of the sheep, and shearers’ costs). The net proceeds are then distributed by cheque to the schools. Exhibitors are advised that it may take several months for the Association to receive the proceeds from the sale of wool and/or wethers for distribution back to the schools.
SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS
The members of Merino SA would like to take the opportunity to thank trophy sponsors and event sponsors for their contribution toward the competition:
Mutooroo Pastoral Company
Australian Wool Network
Spence Dix & Co
Thomas Foods International
Urrbrae Agricultural School
Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders
Australian Wool Innovation
Sports Shear SA
Turretfield Research Centre
Mr. Peter Fitzsummons
>>> Download the South Australian Schools' Merino Wethers Competition Handbook for more information (1.3MB, pdf)