Mt Challicum Merino stud wins Grand Champion Fleece title at Australian Fleece Competition

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Chris, Tim and Ben Hartwich, of Mt Challicum Merino stud, with their family's extra superfine fleece that was awarded the grand champion ribbon at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo.
Camera IconChris, Tim and Ben Hartwich, of Mt Challicum Merino stud, with their family's extra superfine fleece that was awarded the grand champion ribbon at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo. Credit: Nutrien Wool/Nutrien Wool

Mt Challicum Merino stud principals Phil and Kim Hartwich, of Victoria, have taken out the 2022 Grand Champion Fleece title at the Australian Fleece Competition in Bendigo with an extra superfine Merino fleece.

This is the second Grand Champion title awarded to Mt Challicum. The Merino stud previously won in 2014, and to top off their achievements the Hartwich family also received the 2022 Most Successful Stud Exhibitor trophy.

Now in its 21st year, the Australian Fleece Competition is the biggest fully measured fleece competition in the world, attracting 345 entries from 130 exhibitors.

The judges for the competition included Modiano Australia senior buyer Lou Morsh and Nutrien - Arcadian Wool managing director Ian Shawcross, of Geelong, Victoria.

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“Favorable growing conditions in most areas, along with good breeding and management practices have produced an excellent quality show this year,” Mr Shawcross said.

Exporter judge Mr Morsh said the majority of the fleeces in the Merino section showed all traits of the modern Merino — well nourished, heavy cutting wool with a long staple and deep crimp.

He also endorsed the competition’s judging criteria,

“The visual traits of the fleeces were very even, separating them on that alone would have been very difficult this year,” Mr Morsh said.

The competition is run in conjunction with the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo and is a joint effort by the Australian Sheep Breeders Association, the Australian Wool Testing Authority and Nutrien Ag Solutions.

The Grand Champion 17.2 micron fleece was in the Extra Superfine Merino Stud Ewe or Wether class, and scored 97.43 out of a possible 100 points.

Mr and Mrs Harwich were very proud of the result.

“We are extremely honoured to receive the top fleece award this year,” Mr Hartwich said.

“We selected some handy fleeces, as did other growers.

“We feel that the fleece competition does an amazing job in highlighting worthwhile charities, and we always support the competition.”

After winning Grand Champion in 2019, Wattlebank Merino stud, that trades as Glen Brother in Guildford Victoria, received the Reserve Grand Champion award with a 16 micron ultrafine fleece scoring 95.45 points.

The Champion Commercial Fleece was won by Seaori Pastoral Co, in Crookwell, NSW, with an 18.8 micron entry in the Fine Medium Merino Ewe or Wether section, scoring an impressive 91.40 points.

Seaori Pastoral dominated the commercial section, taking home the Reserve Commercial Champion, and the Most Successful Commercial exhibitor.

Competition convener, Nutrien Wool account manager Candice Cordy said organisers were very pleased to run another successful event this year.

“The Australian Sheep and Fleece Show was cancelled due to COVID in 2020 and 2021, so we are thrilled to be back here in Bendigo,” she said.

“This is a really important event for the industry and a great opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate all the hard work of our livestock producers and wool growers.”.

Supported by 26 sponsors, the competition offers $18,000 in prizes, with the Grand Champion fleece exhibitor collecting a $2200 travel voucher sponsored by Nutrien Wool and Elanco Animal Health.

The Proctor Family of Gowan Brae in Victoria were the 2022 winners of the Performance Class, which caters for exhibitors shearing in six to eight-month cycles commercially. The Performance Class was again extremely well supported, with entries from across Australia.

Almost two thirds of the fleeces on show were donated by exhibitors to be auctioned at the completion of the competition, with all proceeds donated to a different nominated charity each year.

Since its inception, more than $190,000 dollars has been raised for important causes.

This year the nominated charity was Lifeline, which provides support for people experiencing emotional distress.

All competition fleeces were weighed and sampled for objective measurement (including length and strength), under standard procedures of the Australian Wool Testing Authority.

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