ARGENTINA is "very strong" in Australian Merino genetics, according to John Daniell, White River stud, Poochera on Eyre Peninsula, who with his wife Margaret recently returned from a second trip to the South American country.
John, a judge at the Argentinian National Sheep Show at Comodora Rivadavia, says he is very impressed by the quality of sheep.
"There were around 100 sheep shown of very high quality, very comparable with any top Australian shows," he said.
"They recognise Australia as the world's leading source of Merino genetics."
John says the competition is different from Australian classes where sheep are assessed in their wool types. In Argentina they are judged in their age groups, all in full wool, and a majority older, but extremely well prepared. Only three ewes were shown at Comodora Rivadavia, all full-wool hoggets.
The grand champion Poll Merino ram came from the Los Manantiales stud and was sired by a North Ashrose ram. The reserve grand champion Poll Merino was a two-teeth from the Media Luna stud and had an East Strathglen, Western Australian bloodline.
In Merinos the grand champion Merino ram was exhibited by the LeLeque stud and was sired by an Angenup, WA, ram. The reserve grand champion was an outstanding 17-micron from the Rio Pico stud with a Langdene, New South Wales, sire.
John says he was was also very impressed by the champion two-teeth ram, a Merino shown by Shaman stud and sired by Collinsville Regent 421.
"There was a very strong representation of Australian bloodlines including Greenfields, Collinsville, North Ashrose; Angenup and Kollindale and East Strathglen (WA), and Charinga from Victoria to name some of the most prominent," John said.
He also addressed breeders on the criteria for short-wool showing at Australian shows, explaining Adelaide's trend towards a dominance of short-wool sheep.
He suggested this was likely to help them to get more commercial interest and involvement in their shows and sales.
In the ram sale that followed the judging, 41 rams were offered and 12 sold to 50,500 pesos – about $10,100 – for Shaman stud's champion two-teeth.
"The reserve grand champion Poll Merino from Media Luna sold for 20,000 pesos, the grand champion Poll Merino made 37,000 pesos, and the grand champion Merino made 30,000 pesos," John said.
The reserve champion Merino from Rio Pico had a 40,000 reserve price and despite his outstanding qualities, failed to reach that reserve.
"They are currently experiencing their sixth very dry to drought year in a row and I understand that as a result the sheep population and subsequent demand is down," John said.
After the show John and Margaret were hosted for a week or so in the Patagonia and Andes foothills and were escorted around by Maria Gonzalo from the Rio Pico stud.
"The hospitality we were accorded was absolutely wonderful," John said. "They all really went beyond any expectations in showing us around, from the coast to the Andes. It is very tough country, with some areas only getting 50 millimetres of rain. The average is probably 150-200mm in the tougher plains country, and up to around 450mm in the Andes foothills where Merinos are run.
"They need gutsy sheep with strong constitutions to survive in the tough range-country and most are what we would call bold medium-wool types. It was explained to me that it is very much like the country around Broken Hill, but it also snows. The temperature goes down to minus 20 degrees.
"The average scanned pregnancy rate seems to be up to the 90 per cent range, but due to the cold and predators such as foxes, and a type of puma up to 2 metres long that come down from the mountains, their weaning rate drops down to 60-70pc."
*Full report in Stock Journal, March 7 issue, 2013.