It was a case of third-time lucky for Neil Hobley.
The Nyabing grain grower and sheep producer claimed the State Ewe Hogget Competition title and $1000 at last week’s Newdegate Machinery Field Days — the third time he had entered the event.
Grasslands Farm, of Nyabing, was awarded runner-up honours of the Dyson Jones-sponsored competition, with farm manager John Jolley on hand to accept the award and $750.
Newdegate sheep producers Bill and Roz Lloyd rounded out the top three after son Ian entered their pen, winning a $500 cheque.
Mr Hobley said the pen of late-May and June drop ewes were a strong entry, but he doubted they would win the sash ahead of judging.
“We have about 2000 breeding ewes … it keeps us busy and is good to have when wool and sheepmeat is good,” he said.
“I didn’t think they would win but entered them because they looked all right.
“This competition is a chance to see how my sheep are going and it’s good to have Dysons hold an event like this.”
Gairdner-based grain-sheep farmer Jarrod King judged this year’s competition, held last Wednesday.
Mr King said Mr Hobley’s winning pen demonstrated strong evenness across all 10 ewes, noting the sheep’s eye-catching size.
“I chose this particular pen because they were the most even types out of the seven groups in the competition,” he said.
“Out of the 10 sheep in the pen, seven had their lambs’ teeth so they showed tremendous growth rates to still be lambs and be the size that they are.
“It was a very good pen of ewes with good consistency across all 10 sheep, good depth-of-body and their wool matched up very well.”
The second-place win was a boon for Mr Jolley, who manages the Hurst family-owned farm, selecting the breeders from its 6000-head Merino flock, and hand-picked the 10 11/2-year-old ewes from a pool of about 350.
He said eight of the 10 were even, but there may have been two which “let the rest down”.
The Claypan and St Quentin bloodline ewes had soldiered on “very well” after being born into a “very tough year” at the 2900ha property, Mr Jolley said.
“It has been a tough couple of years with the blowing winds and no feed base … it has been long and dry,” he said.
“We have been doing a lot of supplementary feeding to keep the sheep in condition … cost-wise we have been balancing it out to maintain them.
“It comes down to the bloodlines and these are bloodlines that hold their structure very well.”
Mr Jolley said it was always a challenge to narrow down 10 sheep, especially in a tough year where the farm’s normal 600-lamb drop was reduced to 350.
In the end, the March-shorn, full wool sheep performed well.
“To get 10 out of 350 rather than 600 is a lot harder,” Mr Jolley said.
“I went through the whole lot, got down to 30, then to 15, and mucked around a bit before getting to the 10.”
A sheep enthusiast, Mr Jolley said it was “time-consuming work”, but work he loved.
“If you enjoy it, and then get results like this, it shows you that the line you are taking is a good one, we are very happy with second place,” he said. “This competition gives us a chance to compare our sheep against other producers, which can be a bit daunting.”
Dyson Jones WA general manager Peter Howie said the competition had been well supported by growers, with nine entries.
Dyson Jones has sponsored the event for 30 years. “It is great to see people with a real interest in sheep,” Mr Howie said.