Aussies at World Merino event

Cate RocchiThe West Australian
Aussie delegates included Geoff and Valerie Power, Christopher Haselby, Carol-Ann Melouf, Charlie and Pip Merriman, and Pam Hasleby.
Camera IconAussie delegates included Geoff and Valerie Power, Christopher Haselby, Carol-Ann Melouf, Charlie and Pip Merriman, and Pam Hasleby. Credit: The West Australian

Dozens of Australian breeders attended the Cape Wools 9th World Merino Conference in Stellenbosch, South Africa, from April 29 to May 1.

Stud Merino Breeders' Association of WA president Kevin Keatley said he enjoyed meeting other breeders and many of the speakers, particularly Tim Noakes.

Mr Noakes, who is a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town and advocate of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, spoke on "Chew the chop - it is good for you!"

Mr Keatley, from Kojonup stud Hyfield, said scientific evidence increasingly revealed that a diet featuring red meat is better for consumers than a diet that is high in vegetable fat, carbohydrates and excludes red meat.

"It is beneficial to eat red meat, and to say you don't need it is a fallacy," he said.

He said the global population was growing and so would its demand for meat.

Mr Keatley commented that South African Merino breeders had a greater focus on meat production over wool than Australian farmers.

He added the well-run conference was worthwhile.

"The sheep industry is a global market; it is not unique to Australia and we have got to keep in touch with what the rest of the world is doing," he said.

But as far as predators of sheep were concerned, things were very different.

Unlike Australia, with foxes and dingoes, South African farmers had to contend with jackals and lynxes.

The conference was attended by about 450 delegates from 11 countries, with about two-thirds from the host country, South Africa and 165 from overseas.

There were 89 delegates from Australia, 21 from Russia, 18 from Lesotho and 12 from New Zealand.

Others from WA, apart from Mr Keatley, included Terry and Cheryl Ash.

Conference chairman Francois van der Merwe said this year's event was held under the auspices of the World Federation of Merino Breeders.

Outgoing president Rob Ashby, of Old Ashrose Merino Stud in South Australia, welcomed delegates and guests at a sparkling open ceremony with His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho, a passionate Merino farmer and guest speaker, and the world-ranked Stellenbosch University Choir performing.

Preceding the conference, many toured South African farms, visiting prominent sheep breeders of Merino and Merino-derivative breeds. More than 35 speakers presented talks, including many from Australia - Professor James Rowe (Sheep CRC), Dr Paul Swan (Australian Wool Innovation), author, sheep historian and breeder Charles Massey, Cam Munro (HE Kater and Son's Egelabra Merino stud general manager), and Mandy Curnow and Dr Johan Greeff from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

Dr Greeff gave a technical paper on breeding productive, low-cost merinos, but focusing on resistance to intestinal nematodes and blowflies.

"Blowflies and intestinal worms are the two most important parasites facing the Australian and New Zealand sheep industry," Dr Greeff said.

Ms Curnow spoke about a long-standing department project titled Lifetimewool: more lambs, better wool and healthy ewes.

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