Sheep hard work pays off in ribbons

Reports by Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
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There's little doubt Ted and Bev Hill love their sheep, and after yet another strong showing in the Esperance Agricultural Show they've got the ribbons to prove it.

The duo was awarded supreme grand champion fleece and champion fleece of the south-east, the third time they have won fleece of the south-east.

Earlier this month, in their 20th year at the Perth Royal Show, the Hills picked up reserve champion farmer's fleece and most points in the wool section.

For Ted, it's recognition of all the hard work that goes into the sheep side of their West River farming enterprise.

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The couple have a one third cropping, two thirds sheep mix, running about 5000 Merinos and first-cross Poll Dorsets.

"At this stage it's probably a few too many," Ted said.

"We've got 1000 there to move - crossbred lambs and shipper wethers - but we're not going to sell them at the current prices.

"We'll hang onto them a bit longer - it's just a pity it's such a poor year."

Ted and Bev said it was one of the worst seasons they had experienced rainfall-wise since moving to the area in 1975 but that was not taking the shine off what has been a great year for their wool.

Just over 12 months ago the couple swapped to Pallinup bloodlines in their quest for big plain-bodied sheep that cut good wool.

"I'm looking for a big, bold, plain sheep without wrinkle," Ted said.

"You'll find if you've got a big free-growing sheep, in two years you've got shippers.

"You've got to go for that big, bold, white, definite crimp.

"Once we used to have 22-23 micron wool but we have gradually crept down in our microns without losing that weight.

"Most of them are around the 20 micron range."

Maiden ewes are given a pellet of cobalt and selenium for growth and wool quality, while ewes that cut under a 7kg fleece are culled.

Ted said ewes in their last season or two were put to Poll Dorsets.

"The young ewes we just keep classing out and put the Merinos over them," he said.

"It ends up about one third crossbreds and two thirds Merinos.

"We drop our lambs in the beginning of May and then we like to tail them at the end of May.

"We find if we shear in late July or early August, then they come straight off the board and go off as shippers.

"They've got to make room for the next lot."

After two decades of entering, Ted reckons next year will be the last time they'll show wool at the Perth Royal but he's remaining committed to wool as long as he is farming.

"I love wool. I think there is so much future there," he said.

"You can enjoy doing it but it's also your business. You can learn all the time."

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