Spir­its high at Dow­erin

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Cally Dupe

The small Wheat­belt town of Dow­erin once more hosted WA’s big­gest agri­cul­tural event, with all in­volved keen to cel­e­brate Aus­tralian farm­ing in style.

In its 52nd year, the Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days last week at­tracted more than 24,000 visitors through its gates, a re­sult just short of last year’s record at­ten­dance.

With mil­lions of dol­lars of ma­chin­ery and prod­ucts on dis­play and more than 770 ex­hibitors, and splashes of live­stock, fash­ion and WA pro­duce, the two-day event was a colour­ful ex­am­ple of the im­por­tance of agri­cul­ture in the State.

Dow­erin field days chair­man Michael Met­calf, whose fam­ily has had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with the event, said it was en­cour­ag­ing to see both visitors and ex­hibitors in high spir­its.

“Ex­hibitors have re­ported strong sales and gen­uine in­ter­est this year, which was more than we had hoped for given the dif­fi­cult start to the grow­ing sea­son,” he said.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan, who of­fi­cially opened the field days, paid trib­ute to the tire­less work of vol­un­teers. “They cre­ate this amaz­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of farm­ing,” she said.

“It’s an amaz­ing en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages peo­ple to take on the lat­est, and the best, that science and tech­nol­ogy has to of­fer, and it also also pro­motes farm­ing.

“In times like this, when there have been a lot of cli­mate chal­lenges, it is fan­tas­tic to see the com­mu­nity pulling to­gether and look­ing for so­lu­tions.”

A new ad­di­tion to this year’s pro­gram was a dis­play of the prog­eny of a sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram, a joint ven­ture be­tween the Stud Merino Breed­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, the Aus­tralian Merino Sire Eval­u­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and Muresk In­sti­tute.

Dow­erin field days live­stock co-or­di­na­tor Brett Jones said the dis­play, which in­cluded shear­ing demon­stra­tions, had been a draw­card for visitors.

The pro­gram in­volved ar­ti­fi­cially in­sem­i­nat­ing Muresk ewes us­ing 11 dif­fer­ent sires, with 50 ewes per sire.

“The re­sult­ing lambs ran to­gether, with the per­for­mance of the prog­eny mea­sured to com­pare the ge­net­ics of each sire eval­u­ated,” Mr Jones said.

Fash­ion pa­rades were also rein­tro­duced to the field days this year, through a part­ner­ship with Eco Fash­ion Week Aus­tralia.

“The de­sign­ers used only sus­tain­able prod­ucts, such as wool and cash­mere, to cre­ate their gar­ments,” event co-or­di­na­tor Sue Blay said.

The Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days last week pre­sented a com­pre­hen­sive look into WA’s sheep in­dus­try, with the Bayer Avenge Ram Shed and Milne Mar­quee be­ing hives of ac­tiv­ity.

A to­tal of 29 Merino studs brought their best to Dow­erin, as did a range of meat sheep breed ex­hibits, all prov­ing to be a draw­card to a steady flow of visitors. Those in­spect­ing the rams on dis­play also had a rare op­por­tu­nity to look over Muresk In­sti­tute’s sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram, with prog­eny from 11 dif­fer­ent stud sires penned and wait­ing to be shorn.

Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days live­stock co-or­di­na­tor Brett Jones said the in­au­gu­ral Muresk dis­play of Merino sheep was a wel­come ad­di­tion and had been ear­marked to re­turn next year.

“Stud Merino breed­ers who par­tic­i­pate in th­ese tri­als are us­ing the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, ob­tained in fair com­par­isons, to im­prove their breed­ing pro­grams,” he said.

Heiniger shearer Todd Weg­ner said the Muresk ewes and wethers were a “mixed bag” of wool types, as he made his way through the mob.

Over­all, the 304 prog­eny, born June 2016, of the Muresk pro­gram, pro­duced an av­er­age fleece weight of 4.2kg.

Aus­tralian Merino Sire Eval­u­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ben Swain said such tri­als were meant to show vari­a­tion, as it helped to make bench­mark­ing rel­e­vant.

“It has been a chal­leng­ing sea­son dur­ing this trial and we ex­pect it will re­flect in next year’s prog­eny,” he said.

Eco-friendly woollen gar­ments of high fash­ion and freshly shorn fleece from trial-mea­sured Meri­nos took cen­tre stage at the Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days last week.

The re­turn of the fash­ion pa­rades, which show­cased na­tional and in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers who worked with nat­u­ral fi­bres, was ap­plauded by visitors.

The pa­rades were the cre­ation of Perth de­signer and founder of Eco Fash­ion Week Aus­tralia Zuhal Ku­van-Mills, whose own la­bel, Green Em­bassy, fo­cuses on sus­tain­abil­ity, or­ganic agri­cul­ture, art and slow fash­ion.

Ms Ku­van-Mills said her pa­rades high­lighted fash­ion could be both stylish and kind on the en­vi­ron­ment.

It was only nat­u­ral that the mod­els wear­ing Aus­tralian Merino fi­bre also took time out of their busy sched­ule to visit the Bayer Avenge Ram Shed and tai­lor a pad­dock-to-fash­ion prove­nance.

Dur­ing their visit, the 29 stud Merino breed­ers re­flected on all their due dili­gence in pro­duc­ing-sheep that grow the world’s best ap­parel wool.

The mod­els also ad­mired a freshly shorn fleece, which rep­re­sented the Muresk In­sti­tute’s in­au­gu­ral sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram dis­play at the field days.

Aus­tralian Merino Sire Eval­u­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ben Swain said it had been a ter­rific trial, a first for Muresk, with prog­eny from 11 dif­fer­ent stud sires be­ing used to ar­ti­fi­cially in­sem­i­nate 50 ewes each.

“We run the prog­eny, ewes and wethers, to­gether in one mob,” he said. “The trial is about tech­nol­ogy and the busi­ness side of breed­ing Meri­nos. It tells us that there is a huge range of ge­net­ics with var­i­ous studs breed­ing to­wards the many traits of choice, in­clud­ing heav­ier fleece weights, worm re­sis­tance, less wrin­kle and oth­ers.

“This shear­ing of the prog­eny at Dow­erin in a pub­lic area is new for any sire eval­u­a­tion trial, all of which date back to 1989, and visitors were keen to in­quire on how it all worked.”

Cran­more Merino stud co­prin­ci­pal Kristin Le­froy, of Moora, whose fam­ily has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in sire eval­u­a­tion tri­als for many years, said his stud was push­ing fleece weight with­out com­pro­mis­ing on wool qual­ity, fer­til­ity and meat traits, all-the-while be­ing mind­ful of body struc­ture.

“With our sire’s prog­eny at the Muresk trial all run­ning to­gether with other stud sires’ prog­eny in the same en­vi­ron­ment, the data re­sults rep­re­sent an ex­am­ple of pub­lic bench­mark­ing and there is some busi­ness risk if, for ex­am­ple, any par­tic­u­lar stud sire’s prog­eny have poor mea­sure­ment or vis­ual re­sults in com­par­i­son to oth­ers in the trial,” he said.

Also new to Dow­erin field days was the in­au­gu­ral ju­nior Merino judg­ing, in which 36 stu­dents from five agri­cul­tural schools par­tic­i­pated. The win­ners gained au­to­matic en­try to the State cham­pi­onships at the 2017 IGA Perth Royal Show.

Dow­erin field days live­stock co­or­di­na­tor Brett Jones said from the runway to the ram shed, it was all fit­ting with this year’s fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

Pic­tures: Steve Fer­rier Pho­tos avail­able at west­pix.com.au

Ryan Rader and Rachel Grout of Nar­ro­gin and their 14-month-old daugh­ter, Sophia, en­joy the Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days.

More than 24,000 peo­ple at­tended the two-day event.

Pic­tures: Bob Gar­nant Pho­tos avail­able at west­pix.com.au

Pre­sent­ing Muresk In­stitue’s dis­play of its sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram at the Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days are Muresk farm man­ager Brad Meagher, Dow­erin field days live­stock co-or­di­na­tor Brett Jones, Curtin Univer­sity stu­dent Ge­or­gia King, Heiniger shearer Todd Weg­ner, Aus­tralian Merino Sire Eval­u­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ben Swain and Merino Life­time Pro­duc­tiv­ity trainer Jonathon Eng­land.

ABOVE: Jen­nacub­bine wool­grower Joe Bowen with stud co-prin­ci­pal Kristin Le­froy at Cran­more’s dis­play. LEFT: Lewis­dale prin­ci­pal Ray Lewis wel­comed a visit by two-year-old Lo­gan Mar­ris and his un­cle, Christo­pher Mar­ris, with both ad­mir­ing the stud’s woolly Poll Merino ram.

Te Rakau Texel stud co-prin­ci­pal Maria Wood.

Pic­tures: Bob Gar­nant Pho­tos avail­able at west­pix.com.au

Model Erica Anne, wear­ing a Merino wool de­sign, took time off the runway at the Dow­erin GWN7 Ma­chin­ery Field Days to visit the Bayer Avenge Ram Shed, where the Muresk In­sti­tute's sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram had its in­au­gu­ral dis­play of woolly wethers and ewes.

Fash­ion pa­rade mod­els wear­ing woollen gar­ments vis­ited the Bayer Avenge Ram Shed, where they ad­mired a freshly shorn fleece that weighed in on the av­er­ages re­sult­ing from Muresk's sire eval­u­a­tion pro­gram.

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