School Merino Wethers Competition
The School 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 School 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 Merino Wether Competition
The School Merino Wether Competition comprises of three Merino or Poll Merino wethers under two years of age with no more than two permanent teeth.
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 Merino 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.
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:
"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."
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.
School Wether tags will be electronic from 2020. This will assist with data collation and provide a good learning opportunity. Wethers must be tagged, inspected, and weighed by a committee comprising of two inspectors, both of whom shall be members of Merino SA. Contact Merino SA if you need to locate a Shearing Inspector. 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 - eg 35.5kg.
The Shearing Inspection report should be signed by the Schools representative and the Shearing Inspectors, with the yellow copy being retained by the school. The original white and blue copies are to be sent to Merino SA promptly , wither by the school or thebreeder before April 30. 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. Please also read the Royal Adelaide Show competition requirements in relation to sheep health.
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.
Ordering tags gives Merino SA an indication of a School's interest in the Merino Wether Compeition, however schools must submit their entries directly to the Royal Adelaide Show by the closing date in July. This is done via the Show's online portal www.theshow.com.au and entries will need to be paid for at this time. Merino SA strongly recommends entries are placed early (eg in May/June) to ensure participation. 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 mid-July. Schools whcih have returned shearing inspection forms to Merino SA will be sent sample bags and recording cards in June.
Schools are to arrange for the mid-side samples to be taken between 7 - 20 July with their two inspectors. The samples are then forwarded for analysis, with the results sent to each school to enable team selection. Tag numbers in each team of three are to be supplied to Merino SA by 31 August.
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.
Ensure your team selections have been nominated to Merino SA
Prior to travelling to the Royal Adelaide Show check tags, check teeth, check paperwork.
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 . The net proceeds are then distributed by EFT 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
Agricultural Teachers Association of SA
together with the many SA Stud Merino Sheepbreeders who contribute their time and knowledge throughout the year.
Thank you for your interest in the School Merino Wethers program. We hope the students learn much about the industry and have fun throughout the year working with Merino wethers.
>>> Download the 2015 South Australian Schools' Merino Wethers Competition Handbook for more information (1.3MB, pdf)
( NB A revised handbook is coming soon).