Newdegate Machinery Field Days’ best fleece prize sure is fine

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Dyson Jones Kukerin area manager Sam Jones and Dyson Jones Great Southern area manager Gavin Shepherd with the winning fleece.
Camera IconDyson Jones Kukerin area manager Sam Jones and Dyson Jones Great Southern area manager Gavin Shepherd with the winning fleece. Credit: Countryman

The Blight family of Highbury have scooped top honours in this year’s fleece competition at the Newdegate Machinery Field Days, winning the champion wool prize after claiming the superfine category in a buoyant competition.

Clinton and Sarah Blight overcame 22 other entrants to take the coveted wool sash, after winning the superfine category by scoring 86 of a possible 100 points.

Mr Blight said he was “incredibly happy” to win the prize after entering for the first time with a fleece he said “looked quite nice”.

The Blights run 400 superfine ewes, based on The Grande bloodlines, to accompany their Seymour Park Poll Merino stud at Highbury, near Narrogin.

The winning fleece was shorn on August 20 and Mr Blight said it was a standout fleece shorn from a two-year-old, commercial ewe with a lamb at foot.

“We just looked at it and thought it would have a good chance to win,” Mr Blight said.

“We have been really happy with our superfine wool produced across the farm this year,.

“We aim for between 15.5 and 16.5 micron to try and get that premium for wool in the marketplace, so we need our sheep to be very even and true to type.”

With three categories on offer, the Newman family of Newdegate took out the fine wool category and the Barr family of Newdegate won the medium wool category.

Kim Newman was on hand to accept the fine wool prize for the second time, and said it was a welcome reward for sticking with sheep during a tough few years.

Newdegate farmer Kim Newman with his winning fleece.
Camera IconNewdegate farmer Kim Newman with his winning fleece. Credit: Countryman

Mr Newman has been farming alongside his father Robert for more than a decade, with the pair having success using Keetlen Valley Stud’s blood lines to breed their flock of 6500 Merinos, which includes 3000 breeding ewes.

He said the fine fleece sash was a testament to the Newmans’ bloodline selection, aided by Keetlen Valley owner Keith Hams. It scored 85 of a possible 100 points, with a near perfect 15 of 16 possible points awarded for soundness and 13 of 14 points for handle.

“We are really happy with the win, it is good to know we have good-quality sheep,” Mr Newman said.

“A wool classer from Ashton Shearing picked the fleece, she knew it was a good one. It is a good reward for all of the hard work you put in with sheep.”

Proving it was a tight contest, the Barr family’s medium fleece scored 85 of a possible 100 points, with a near-perfect 15 of 16 for soundness and 13 of 14 for handle.

Newdegate's Ebony Westlake, 10, and her brother Trey, 12, hold up their grandparents' champion medium fleece.
Camera IconNewdegate's Ebony Westlake, 10, and her brother Trey, 12, hold up their grandparents' champion medium fleece. Credit: Picture: Shannon Verhagen

A staple on the Newdegate Machinery Field Days scene, the fleece competition brings together the top fleeces from across the district with points awarded for character, handle, colour, length, soundness, evenness and density.

Chief judge Gavin Shepherd, Dyson Jones’ Great Southern manager, said it was a tight competition with 22 entries across all three categories.

He judged with Dyson Jones Kukerin area manager Sam Howie.

Mr Shepherd said the Blight family’s “very nice superfine wool” was a stand out champion.

“Its evenness across the whole fleece was very good, it had very good character and bloom and it was very sound as well,” he said. “It presented very nicely.”

As it has for almost 30 years, Dyson Jones Wool Marketing Services sponsored the competition.

Mr Shepherd said the competition had been well supported, bringing together some of the best wool in the area.

“The quality was even across the whole lot,” he said.

“The biggest contingent of wools was in the medium range and they were all very stylish and high yielding, representing the wetter year and good season.

“The top three fleeces were all well-grown, stylish wools which were evenly presented throughout — with good weights.”

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