Urrbrae Agricultural High School has claimed top spot in the School Wether Competition from a record number of entries.
The 156 Merino wethers – 52 teams – made a spectacular sight when they were lined up on the mat for presentations, stretching more than half the length of the sheep shed.
Convenor Stephen Kellock said the enthusiasm of the students had really seen the competition grow from strength to strength, with five more teams than 2016.
“We are here to promote the industry and get them home running a few sheep,” he said.
Urrbrae won the best meat value in 2016, but were able to clinch the Mutooroo Pastoral Prize for overall meat and fleece winner this year.
Their three wether lambs were valued at $659.04, comprising a $494.90 meat value and $164.14 fleece value.
The lambs, which weighed 85 kilograms, 88kg and 82kg, won the meat section and had the third highest fleece value.
Urrbrae agriculture coordinator Damian Brookes said it was a fantastic competition.
“Our breeder works closely with us to make sure we are on the money, but the kids are involved from mid side sampling to crutching and condition scoring the sheep,” he said.
Urrbrae’s wethers had been prepared by year 9 and 10 students, as well as those undertaking a Certificate II in Agriculture.
The Elders Trainee Program prize, for the school with the strongest improvement in the net value of both fleeces and meat in the past three years, went to Burra Community School, which was the fleece winner.
The combined value of its fleeces was $243.61.
Australian Wool Network wool marketing manager and judge Peter Hayman said the event was a wonderful initiative of Merino SA.
“I understand the competition will only get bigger with at least another three to four schools expressing interest – I just hope the organisers can find the room, but I am sure they are up for the challenge,” he said.
Mr Hayman said it was evident schools that had participated for many years were selecting sheep with better wools.
“They are stylish wools and cutting plenty of it,” he said. “Because the competition is based on commercial value, weight is important.”
Mr Hayman said it was a chance to expose students, many who had little experience with sheep, to the industry.
“We are teaching them the fundamentals of meat, skins and wool in the competition and they are learning through the values that they (Merinos) are highly-profitable animals,” he said.
Spence Dix & Co’s Luke Schreiber said it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to judge the best presented pen of three, with the evenness in the teams.
“The students are getting a lot out of the whole competition and the teachers are taking on board the feedback on how to present a line of sheep for sale,” he said.
“All we need to do is get a stock agent, a wool broker or a shearer from it each year and it is worth it and we are well on track to do that.”