John Williams, Thalabah stud, Laggan with his four-tooth fine/medium wool grand champion Merino ewe and Anthony Frost

Boasting great Merino sheep

Showcasing their sheep during the Great Southern Supreme Merino show and sale has enabled Merino breeders a wonderful opportunity to compare genetic improvements during the past 12 months

Gerard Bennett, Achmea Australia, with Michael Elmes and Ian Griffith, Brundanella, Grenfell with supreme Poll Merino exhibit

It has been functioning for 71 years, and the latest Rabobank-sponsored Great Southern Supreme Merino (GSSM) show and sale once again proved its value as one of the premier exhibitions of Merino and Poll Merino genetics in the country. 

There was of course the usual banter between competitors who are also close friends but economic reality demands the leading breeders maintain pace with market conditions and produce sheep which will thrive under commercial conditions, and not simply benefit from being pampered in the ram sheds. 

The Land's Wagga Wagga representative, Stephen Burns, presenting Roger Birtles Memorial sash to Merryville stud

With the Merino industry once again enjoying a period of prosperity, one of the judges, Hamish McLaren, “Nerstane”, Woolbrook thought the sheep exhibited on both days was “a terrific lineup”.

“We had some trying decisions a couple of times,” he said.

“Some of these breeders are trying different things: their constitution is better, the wool is better and there is a lot more wool.”

All of which bodes well for the future of the industry.

“It is definitely moving in the right direction,” Mr McLaren thought.

There is never any certainty in showing sheep but Ian and Janet Griffith, Brundanella Poll, Grenfell thought they might have had a good chance of taking home a broad ribbon with one of their ewes having an exceptional heritage.

“The one we were mad keen on and thought was going to clean up was the little ewe,” Mr Griffith said.

Her dam had been judged grand champion Poll Merino at the 2016 GSSM and she was by the ram judged grand champion Poll Merino at the same show.

So it was not unusual for those connected with the Brundanella stud to think she had great show prospects.

“We had our sights set on her doing big things but she only got as far as reserve champion March-shorn (Poll]) ewe,” Mr Griffith said.   

Their disappointment was soon mollified however when their two-tooth entry in the March-shorn fine/medium wool ram class progressed until he was eventually judged supreme Poll exhibit.

“It is interesting how these things happen, they sneak up on you when you are concentrating on something else,” Mr Griffith said.

“Like my parents said good quality begets quality.”

Wherever Merino sheep have been on display at shows or sales, John Williams has been there dedicating his career to the improvement of the breed.

It was with a real sense of regret, but bowing to the inevitable, that ‘Sam’ as he is known among his many friends in the wool industry, has decided to pass the baton to the younger generation and pull back from the physical connection with showing his beloved Merino sheep.

Fitting then that at his last Great Southern Supreme Merino (GSSM) show in Canberra where he has graced the show floor with dignity and integrity for many years, he exhibited a Merino ewe bred in his Thalabah stud near Laggan north of Crookwell which went on to be judged grand champion ewe of the show. 

The four-tooth March-shorn ewe (pictured above) had graduated through the fine/medium wool classes before being awarded the fine/medium wool championship.

Judge of the fine/medium wool classes, Simon Bahr, Meadow View stud, Henty was very impressed with the stretch and balance of the young ewe. 

“She was clearly a standout in her class and she has come up and won the grand champion ewe and very well deserved,” Mr Bahr said.

“She is really a complete ewe, she is really well put together with a great body shape and size and pushing out a great staple length of bright waxy wool.”

Although the 71st GSSM will be Mr William’s last, his show team will still be exhibited at the sheep show to be held in conjunction with the 2018 Royal Easter Show in Sydney where his daughter and son-in-law Krisi and Anthony Frost will be responsible for their preparation and presentation.

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