CHANGES in the demographic of producers in the Caragabal district led to the re-invigoration of the local Merino flock ewe competition after a brief hiatus.
Event coordinator Trevor Cooper recalled the ewe competition was keenly contested during the period when Merino sheep were popular on the mixed farming properties along the environs of the Bland Creek.
But with the fall in wool returns and the attendant rise in cropping profits associated with a return of good seasons led to the pause in the competition until three years ago.
"We started to see sheep becoming popular again and with a younger generation keen to learn about managing them for best returns, a few of us thought we should kick the competition into gear," Mr Cooper said.
"There was a gap in experience and we thought the competition would be one way of giving our flocks a big lift by having judges come in and make comments about management and breeding."
Mr Cooper said the format at Caragabal was not simply focused on winning but in having a forum where local woolgrowers or even those from away could interact and reflect on the various strategies taken to make wool growing profitable.
"We could see on the farms how different management approaches and different bloodlines performed within basically the same environment," he said.
"It is a learning day, not just about sheep but about pastures, sheep yards and the latest sheep health issues.
"It is rare when you go to a place and don't pick up something new which you think would work well on your own place."
Mr Cooper said it doesn't hurt for farmers to get away from the farm for a day.
"It gives you a break and a chance to talk to other producers about similar problems," he said.
The concept of having two judges works well, with one returning and one new each year giving a continuity of comparison of flocks.
The Caragabal committee engaged Nutrien Ag Solutions Merino specialist Rick Power to arrange for judges each year.
"He is independent so we know he won't get a judge with bias toward a particular bloodline or stud and he knows the industry," Mr Cooper said.
"We have had some very experienced judges and their comments are always well received.
"It is only their opinion, but those who have entered want to know how to lift the standard of their flock and maintain that improvement."
Mr Cooper said the day at Caragabal is not serious but the judges are invited to give advice to each entrant, not to tell them what to do.
"Some might not agree with the suggestions, but if we always agree on everything we will not get anywhere," he said.
"We always stimulate conversation around the yards to get people thinking about what new direction they might take in their flock from what they picked up on the day."