General News Livestock

October 2012 – The mighty merino!

There is something quite magnificent about a Merino Ram, they really are the Hercules of sheep.

I’ve had a recent love affair with Merino Wool, preparing for a white Christmas with Santa in Lapland and the dreaded chill factor. So it was great interest that I attended my fi rst Merino Stud Auction, at Roger Glover’s Mallibee Stud, to learn a little about the source of this amazing fibre.

The highest price Merino Ram was purchased by Greg Cocking of Wannamal. I asked why did Greg chose this Ram out of the 60 on offer?

With his great farmer sense of humour, Greg shared, “I probably jumped in too soon, but I only need a couple of Rams.”

To his credit I think he just knew the best when he saw it. “I thought he was the best ram in the shed, better than the number one. A bit more stretch, a lovely bit of “top notch” (good wool in between eyes), nice and thick horns, good curvature, with good clearance for the shearer. He was an inch and 1/2 taller than number one with a strong straight back.”

Greg shares, “ Roger’s rams are pretty consistent. I like them because I like fi ne white wool with the fine creep. I only buy rams from within our area, the local stuff seems to do better. “

This newly acquired ram will return home, to settle in. When ready, he’ll be matched with about 60-70 ewes. According to Greg, he’ll place them with older ewes, “Never maiden rams with maiden ewes.”

I asked Greg if he had explored AI, “from my experience the AI conception is only about 60%, I prefer the natural way, let the boy do what he
does best”.

What the mighty merino does best is create this woolen textile, which is really quite miraculous. Next time you have the chance – take the
opportunity to inspect closely. Lifetime shearer, Greg Drew, offered me a lesson in inspecting the fineness of the staple (a cluster of fibres make a staple). Very many staples together form a fleece. Serrations on the individual fibres make it possible for the fibers to cling together, very fine binders which run crossways also help to hold the staple together.

This is all part of wool’s secret, it’s innate elasticity gives Merino uncommon durability. This rings true for me; I purchased the kids 100% merino thermal vests; sure they cost a little more, but after countless washes they are still looking as new.

Unfortunately despite this amazing natural product – the cheap, shiny, smelly synthetic fibres continue to fill the shopping malls and drive down the economic returns for our merino producers.

I had the opportunity to chat with Frank McGill, I didn’t quite realize his impressive Merino credentials at the time, but we quickly got discussing the merits of merino wool over synthetics. We both agreed passionately if only wool was promoted as a value for money everyday clothing item instead of the miles of synthetic that seems to fill shopping malls.
I’m now a label shopper – not the brand but what it is made from.

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