Eilan Donan's pair wins

National pair 24 years in the making

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National pair a quarter of a century in the making as two Merino veterans celebrate their wins.

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"In about my second year in the show ring, I thought 'how easy is this?' and set myself a target of winning the nationals," Jock MacRae said.

"It took me 24 years."

It was a humbling moment when Mr MacRae of Eilan Donan Merino stud, Elphinstone, accepted the award for National Merino Pair of the Year.

His first year of showing had been a very good one, with a ewe named 'Perfect Lady' catapulting the then novice stud master into a state placing.

Over the following 25 years, Mr MacRae said he had learnt an important lesson.

To win a national title, you need two things: A, a very good pair of sheep and, B, a lot of luck. - Jock MacRae, Eilan Donan Merino stud

"To win a national title, you need two things: A, a very good pair of sheep and, B, a lot of luck," he said.

"The competition is so hot out there these days that there's very little separating the sheep."

Mr MacRae said producers battling tough seasons had done a remarkable job presenting their sheep.

"To me it was obvious the northern sheep had had a tough time," he said.

"They'd been fed well and shedded but farmers still had to deal with dust settling on the tops.

"The sheep were a credit to the people who brought them down."

Eilan Donan's winning pair, Mr MacRae said, was a very good, even team.

"The ram was by a sire we bred ourselves who was a half brother of the ram who went supreme a year ago," he said.

"He sits in the top 10 for sire evaluations so is one of Australia's best-rated performance rams.

"Both the ewe's lambs are now 2-years-old and she is out of a sire from Georgina Wallace's Tresusis stud in Tasmania.

"She has beautiful, very mobile skin and really long shafty wool, which sits nicely in our eight-month shearing cycle.

"We aim for 10 millimetres a month to meet our 80mm specification at 18.5 micron.

"We will shear the ram next week and my estimation is he will cut around 15 kilograms.

"He's a 135kg, big strong ram who can carry that around, no problems at all."

Mr MacRae said advice from his father had helped seal the victory.

"My father always said, 'a belly of wool will pay for the shearing' and I've focused on getting them up well off the ground," he said.

"I noticed that a few of the other competitors didn't have that and I think it might have helped get us over the line."

Aside from the long overdue nature of the win, Mr MacRae said the national pairs award was satisfying for its symbolism.

"We won the supreme Merino ram a couple of years ago but to win the pairs validates everything we're doing," he said.

Another statesman of Australian Merinos, Ross Wells, Willandra Merino stud, Jerilderie, NSW, was also celebrating a national pairs win with family, taking out the March-shorn title with a full brother and sister pair.

"It's a very pleasing result today," Mr Wells said.

The pair had been housed since early March and it showed in their wool.

"They stand out for the quality of their wool, which has a very well-defined crimp, is very white and soft," he said.

"We have to look after our stud sheep very carefully and the industry's going so well, you can afford to.

"Although we prepare them well for the show, they're bred for a commercial end and we pride ourselves on quality wool on a good frame."

Mr Wells admitted having had a good feeling about the pair's prospects.

But he said there were some very good teams in the competition and in turn, the industry's future looked positive.

"I'm very proud of the sheep and the family, too," he said.

"Gus and Heidy are coming home to the farm and the industry's there for the future.

"What they achieve will be totally up to them."

The story Eilan Donan's pair wins first appeared on Stock & Land.

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