COMING away with a first, second, third and seventh placed ribbons in a biggest ever-showing of the School Merino Wethers Competition was already reason for Meningie Area School to celebrate, but then came the news this morning they were also the overall winners.
A "data entry error" had resulted in the wrong school being announced during the presentation yesterday, with an earlier presentation time, to allow students time to return home, placing more pressure on the administration, with the mistake discovered this morning.
All up, 210 wethers were presented - an extra nine on last year's feature breed exhibition - to celebrate the event's 10th year.
The event went ahead at the Adelaide Showground, despite the absence of the Royal Adelaide Show, with some careful provisions in place.
The students at Meningie Area School were "pretty pleased" to hear the news, according to principal Mal Jurgs, with this their best result in seven years of competition.
"We've had a few ribbons along the way - not every year - but this was the first time we've done this," he said.
Their team of three Flairdale-blood wethers won first place in the meat value - worth $579.43, seventh in the fleece value - $128.28, and third in the highest weight gain, with 135 kilograms gained since March.
Student Ella Swan also came second in the class handler competition.
The winning team had an overall commercial value of $707.71.
Mr Jurgs said the competition had a lot of benefits to the students, starting from when the delivery of 20 wethers, from Wayne Lehmann, Flairdale, Tailem Bend, and David and Gwenda Eckert,Mentara Park, Malinong, in February.
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He said the students, from years 6, 7 and 8, were involved in selecting the wethers initially, and then help with feeding, weighing and culling out the team.
"They've really been involved in that process as a team," he said.
He said the students were also hands on in working with the animals, to be able to be handled at the show, with some of the animals ending up bigger than the students.
"There is a lot of confidence in working with an animal that size - a lot of persistence and patience," he said.
"There are unmeasurable qualities in a program like this."
Mr Jurgs said the program also helped connect local students with the local industry, which could lead to potential career paths.
In the other major prizes in the competition, Port Broughton Area School, which did one better than its second place last year in the highest weight gain, coming out on top this year with a total weight gain of 145.5kg.
Trinity College, Gawler, were the winners of the most valued fleeces, with a value of $149.67.
Karcultaby Area School won the best pen of three wethers, Wudinna Area School the most professional school show team, Eastern Fleurieu School, the show team development and Macy Kitschke, Jamestown, was the class handler winner.
Event coordinator Stephen Kellock said the competition had come along in the past decade, when just 66 sheep were entered, with the improvement in the showing very clear.
He said it was great to be able to hold the event at the Adelaide Showground, due to the support of the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society, and still see that level of work from industry and the exhibitors.
A new competition has also been announced for 2021, with schools asked to enter one fleece each into the wool section.
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