Ewe evenness has the edge

Rebecca TurnerThe West Australian

There were nine entries in the 29th annual State Ewe Hogget Competition at this year's Newdegate Machinery Field Days, with a very even line of ewes from the Howatson Family Trust taking out the top prize.

Darren Howatson of the Howatson Family Trust was very happy with his team's winning result, saying the evenness of the ewes was thanks to good classing, ram selection and the use of objective measurements.

The Howatsons run 24,000 ewes on their Newdegate property, which operates as a 65 per cent cropping, 35 per cent sheep enterprise.

Their pure Merino flock has been using Woolkabin Merino bloodlines for nearly 25 years.

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"We have a good relationship with Chris and Eric Patterson of Woolkabin Merinos and Poll Merinos in Katanning and have been working with them for a long time, along with their father Bruce who all have a strong desire to produce a quality Merino product," Mr Howatson said.

Mr Howatson said they had also used sheep classer Hugh Warden for the past 15 years, who also has a great passion for the sheep industry and Merinos.

"We have maintained our faith and belief in the wool and carcase industry," Mr Howatson said.

He said with the returns from sheep meat and ewe hogget sales now more financially rewarding, he was heartened the industry was moving in the right direction.

Mr Howatson said while in the past they had trialled putting 400 to 500 ewes to cross-bred rams, they had since moved back to producing only pure Merinos.

He said to produce a consistent ewe flock they focused on a combination of OFDA analysis, visual classing and using a high cull percentage of about 27 per cent.

"We are hard on health issues and believe you have to take out a good percentage of your flock in order to achieve such evenness," Mr Howatson said.

The Howatsons also focus heavily on growth rates and ensure good husbandry as well as tailoring feeding regimes at lambing time and keep a close eye on maintaining feed over autumn.

Mr Howatson is a veteran of the ewe hogget competition, having previously been the co-ordinator of the event. He has won the event five times. He said because this was the only ewe hogget show in the State, he would like to see more producers travel to compete.

The Howatsons' winning ewe line took out the award with a total of 800 points with second place awarded to F and N.L. Varone on 763 points. Third place was awarded to I.F. and S.J. Lloyd on 755 points and fourth place was awarded to Shalimah Farming on 728 points.

Each entered line of 10 ewes is judged on size, conformation, evenness of wool quality, evenness of wool micron, quality of wool and uniformity of wool.

Competition co-ordinator Stephen Chappell said while the number of entries was the same as last year, there were some new entrants, with all ewes presented being of excellent quality.

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