The 2018 Cleckheaton grand champion trophy for the best superfine fleece in the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association (ASWGA) annual competition has been awarded to New England woolgrowers Lesleann and Mark Waters, “Riverton”, Armidale.
Their winning fleece, from a four-year-old wether, weighed 4.8 kilograms, measured 17-micron and in the 74’s class.
The couple have had a successful run this year, winning grand champion fleece at Guyra show which attracted over 300 entries. They also won grand champion in the district exhibits competition at the Sydney Royal. In total for 2018 they have won six championships with five different fleeces.
The Waters’ registered a Merino stud 20 years ago and were looking for a means of promoting their product.
“We had a Border Leicester stud years ago, and it was a lot of work,” Mr Waters said.
“I thought it was a poor use of my time. So we went along the fleece avenue.”
They run an elite mob of 50 three to five-year-old wethers to produce their top line of fleeces.
“Once they get to a three-year-old, their fleeces are heavier and whiter than a two year-old,” he said.
They are fed only natural grasses, no set pastures, with the addition of grain in the winter if the season tightens up.
The Waters’ enterprise consists of 3000 Merino sheep, including 1200 ewes and 600 wethers on just over 1000 hectares. The remaining number are lambs.
The number of years Mr Waters keeps his wether portion, other than his elite mob, is dependant on the market.
“They are a trade component of my operation,” Mr Waters said.
“I’d like to keep them if I could, but if the wool price falls and the mutton price is good then I’ll send them off.”
At “Riverton” about 300 Angus cattle run alongside the Merinos to help diversify within the operation.
Mr Waters said most of his wool clip is a fine wool 70’s type, but have bales of 74’s and 66’s as well.
“We aim for length, thickness and softness in our wool,” Mr Waters said. “I guess you are always looking for the holy grail, but overall I am pretty happy with the product we are producing.”
It was a successful night for the couple, who also won the class 74’s section and were the New England region winners.
Kathy and Trevor Mibus of Glenara Merinos, Dunkeld, Vic, were winners of the Hamilton region while the Goulburn/Yass region was won with a fleece from Robyn and John Ive, “Talaheni’, Yass Valley.
Michelle and Luke Rapley, “Plassey”, Ross, won the Tasmanian region and placing first in the west was Faye and James Pepper of “Mumballview”, Mumballup, WA.
Penny and Andrew Hundy, “Windradeen”, Mudgee, were judged first place in the class 90’s and finer while Jill and Ed Hundy of “Winderadeen”, Mudgee, placed first in the 80’s class and the Mudgee region.
Lyndsay and Noel Henderson of Avington Merinos, Sidona won the class 70’s and first in the Ararat/Barunah region.
The presentations were held at the Mecure Hotel, Goulburn, where the seventh annual ASWGA dinner and farm tours were held over the weekend.
Just under 80 fleece entries were judges and coordinated by the Yass/Goulburn branch.