It's taken 34 years but Merino sheep have made a welcome return to the Winton Show.
Five growers and 68 sheep made good use of the renovated pens on Saturday, and the section even received a surprise visit from Japan's Consul-General Kazunari Tanaka and state agricultural minister Mark Furner.
Organiser John Paynter said rain on Saturday morning prevented two other exhibitors from attending or they would have had just under 100 entries.
"It's something we wanted to do to get younger people involved in sheep again," he said. "Having them lined up like that at the show helps them make good management decisions, especially as so many have gone out of sheep in the area, with all their background knowledge."
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Ewes from he and wife Donna's Wando Station vied with Ken and Alex Sorenson at Teviot, west of Winton, for the main prizes on offer.
Teviot was successful firstly with its pen of three two-tooth ewes, while Wando won the four-tooth and six-tooth classes, before entries from Teviot won the champion single ewe in two- and six-tooth classes.
Wando showed the champion single four-tooth ewe and the best pen of weaner ewes while Teviot had the best pen of weaner wethers.
Finally, Teviot showed the grand champion single ewe, taken from its two-tooth pen, and Wando's milk tooth pen was the grand champion pen of ewes.
The three other exhibitors, who took a number of minor places, included Jim and Rhonda O'Connell, Camara; John and Helen Ogg, Ayrshire Downs; and Shane and Jody Axford, Goolma.
The Elliott family from Belmont and the McQueen family were preparing to show sheep before rain made the trip to town too wet.
Teviot used Egelabra bloodlines and Wando is a Boonoke client, and both studs had rams on display and stud representatives Cam Munro and Tom Lilburne judged the competition.
Mr Paynter said the weekend success had cemented the section's place in the show next year, where they would contemplate both short and long wool sections.
"People who've been out of sheep for a while might not have the infrastructure to run them now, but I think sheep are definitely here to stay," he said. "We've tripled our numbers since it rained and they're lambing well."
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Alex Sorenson said they'd been using Egelabra rams since they took over running Teviot 10 years ago and were really happy with the bright wool and amount of it.
"We didn't expect to do that well at the show, we just wanted to support it," she said. Their flock was badly affected by February's weather event but she hoped they would still have 10,000 sheep to continue on with.
Fellow competitor Jody Axford said the region had been a big sheep hub once and the return of the section had planted a subtle seed that sheep were on the way back.
According to local agent Tom Brodie, possibly 80pc of Winton properties that once had sheep had gone out of them.
"There's a pocket round Corfield that's stuck with them and I think there's a massive lot of potential for sheep," he said. "I harp on a bit but people will really struggle to find staff that can work sheep now - you've got to do it properly or it's not worth doing."
He said when he started as an agent in the district in 2003 they handled the sale of 116,000 sheep that year, where they'd be lucky to sell 30,000 at present.
"Having them at the show shows there's a diehard nucleus there that can be built on," he said.
Mr Paynter said the Japanese interest at the show had been a boost for the sheep breeders there, with the amount of industry they showed in current wool industry conditions.
"I spoke to them about volatility but how we have a very positive outlook right now."
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