By Brian C Jefferies A.M.
Farmers have always been keen on competitions. The idea of Hogget Competitions probably was initiated by members of the SA Agricultural Bureau to create interest in sheep selection and breeding, and management practices. However, officers in the Department of Agriculture saw Hogget Competitions as an excellent potential medium for teaching principles of better breeding, selection and management.
In the 1950's there were numerous Hogget Competitions under a variety of rules being run by groups of farmers.The Department of Agriculture introduced a standardentry form in which we posed a series of questions such as:
As a result it added rigour to te competitions but also opened the opportunity to look at the sheep objectively and assess why one group appeared more productive than another.
In one case an entrant was allocated the lowest points and some farmers were heard to whisper, “They are inbred!!” After explaining the principles of better management of ewes during late pregnancy and weaners during dry summers and autumns, we noticed that this same entrant had moved from bottom to second position in the following year! Clearly, it was not a problem of poor breeding but of better management and husbandry.
In another case in the Murray Mallee, farmers were saying before the competition that a certain entry was almost certain to win. However, after judging the entries another entry had scored more points than the one named by the farmers as the possible winner. The rams were quite outstanding so we asked the entrant from where he had bought his rams and he said from a stud near Tarlee, which was based on the strong woolled Koonoona stud. When asked about these outstanding rams he said, 'Well they came from the Moorundie Park family”. Moorundie Park had been using objective measurement as an aid to selection, and the stud was classed by the outstanding sheep classer, Len Anderson, whose hands were particularly sensitive for selecting soft handling wools with good style, and high fleece and body weights. Furthermore, the entry of 25 hoggets was a very representative sample of the whole flock which had also been yarded on the day. In some other flocks the entry of 25 was clearly better than the flock from which they had been selected.
The improvement in the flocks of entrants in these Hogget Competitions became obvious, and the sheep husbandry of many farmers changed as a result. Consequently Hogget Completions became an effective medium for effective extension in Sheep Breeding and Husbandry.