A NSW company which owns two Merino studs and a commercial breeding flock of 80,000 ewes has reasserted the breed's dual-purpose benefits at Bendigo.
Australian Food & Agriculture-owned Poll Boonoke Merino stud, Conargo, NSW, and Wanganella Merino stud, Wanganella, NSW, won the grand and reserve champion all-purpose Merino ribbons at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show.
The wool and meat category was developed to showcase the breed's dual-purpose traits, with the grand champion ram scoring 87.9 out of 100.
Judges said this was the highest score for a ram in the category since the class started more than two decades ago.
Australian Food & Agriculture general manager Justin Campbell, Conargo, said it was a thrill to win the grand champion all-purpose gong for a third consecutive year.
"Our poll ram from Poll Boonoke came in first and our horned ram from our Wanganella stud came in second and to get first and second is just amazing," he said.
The operation is spread across more than 283,000 hectares and several NSW farming properties.
It includes the 80,000-head Merino ewe breeding operation, plus an extensive cropping portfolio, including wheat, rice and cotton.
Mr Campbell said the both studs, led by principal Tom Lilburne, aimed to breed dual-purpose Merinos which cut plenty of wool and featured a good covering of meat "down their leg and over their rump" as well.
"We run roughly about 80,000 Merino ewes and out of that, 20,000 go to a terminal sire, like a Poll Dorset or White Suffolk, and the remainder are joined to our Merinos," he said.
"Last year we sold about 1650 rams to every state in Australia with our main sale in September."
"It is a big operation, but it's important we get our sheep our and show them so people know what we're achieving with our breed."
All-purpose Merino judge Klay Smith, Glenville Merino stud, Cowell, SA, said it was a tough task to assess the 62 entries from Victoria, NSW, SA and WA.
"The first sheep, Poll Boonoke 614, was a very complete sheep and he was very even across his body," Mr Smith said.
"He stood well all the way through.
"He was wide, he was long-stapled and well-covered and his wool handled extremely well so he was a very uncomplicated and productive ram."
Mr Smith said the ram's score of 87.9, which considered its wool, meat and visual traits, was a clear performer at the show.
"The reserve champion wasn't too far behind the grand champion, but he just didn't have the staple the top ram did," he said.
"This category shows that Merinos are dual-purpose animals and we want to combine our meat with our wool to get the maximum production out of our sheep."