At the same as he was handing out trophies at the Longreach show this year, wether trial steward Doug Allpass was fearing for the future of the event.
Severe and ongoing drought conditions have seen the trial, begun in 2008, move its sheep to three different properties in search of conditions that would keep the stock alive, a scenario replicated by the graziers who have entered animals for competition.
“The resilience and keenness of owners have kept the trial going, but because of the season, people haven’t joined for three years,” Doug said, a sign that new intakes to the trial have been hard to come by.
As well as being a fundraiser for the show – this year it was three bales of wool and 50 wethers valued at $60 each – Doug said participants got “a massive amount of feedback” on their flock.
“Landholders have definitely changed their rams from the information gained in the last seven years,” he said.
This year, 12 owners had 21 teams in the competition, representing 13 bloodlines, ranging from Goolma at Winton in the north, east to Dunblane at Barcaldine, to Laidlaw south of Longreach, and to Beaconsfield north of Ilfracombe.
Buckles and Anne Peacey’s sheep from Laidlaw featured in nearly every prize category, including highest value single wether ($137.84), highest wool value team ($248.62), and the supreme team award.
Their 2013 intake wethers had a combined fleeced and carcase total of $531.52.
Peter and Kimble Thomas, Beaconsfield had the reserve supreme team after collecting trophies for highest carcase value team ($290.10) and heaviest team (combined total of 249kg).
The Longreach Pastoral College’s Manningham was third in the supreme team award and also had the highest valued fleece, of $66.72.
The Axfords at Goolma, Winton showed the heaviest wether in the competition this year, weighing 68.5kg.