With a world-renowned product, South Australian Merino celebrates 100 years of association in 2022.
The South Australian Stud Merino Sheep Association was formed on 14 September 1922 with Alick J Murray as the first elected president.
The association was founded in 1979 and now operates under the shorter name of Merino SA.
Merino SA represents approximately 130 merino and survey merino poles in the state.
The Royal Adelaide Show recognized the century with a wool-inspired fashion parade, the Adelaide Ram Sale and the launch of a book to be published early next year.
For many breeders, their families have been involved with Merino SA for many years and can see this continuing for years to come.
Association and industry go hand in hand
John Daniell of White River Merinos Sheep Stud at Poochera on the Eyre Peninsula has been involved in Merino SA for several years.
His father first registered a merino stud in 1957 and Mr Daniell was president of the association, as well as many other sub-committees.
He also helped put together the Merino SA 100 year book and planned the celebrations.
Mr Daniell said the industry would not be the same without the strong support of Merino SA.
“The union has been very important in building a very prosperous industry for the state,” he said.
Mr Daniell said he sees the industry continuing to grow.
“Two or three of the main issues have been the sizing of the wool, as in microns,” he said.
“Probably the fact that poll merino was so dominant and the phase where there were few horned merino threads and then the introduction of artificial insemination, in the 1980s, it really came to the fore and it became a big thing genetically. Merino development in South Australia.”
He said these changes had helped SA growers gain recognition not only in Australia but around the world.
“You only have to go to the Adelaide Ram Sale, which is really the leading merino sale in the world over the years,” Mr Daniell said.
“People come from all over Australia and overseas to get our genetics.”
Tom Ashby of Northern Ashrose Merinos and Poll Merino Stud in South Australia’s Mid North agreed.
“South Australian breeders have played a huge role in the genetics side of the sheep breed improvement we need in SA and it’s spreading across Australia, with a lot of SA rams going interstate playing a big role there as well,” he said.
Mr Ashby said early breeders in the state identified they needed a larger breed of animal with a large constitution to handle the harsher conditions of being in Australia’s driest state.
“I think they’ve become popular because of their body size, body weight, precociousness and growth, and that’s kind of set them apart from other sheep over the years.”
Mr Ashby and his family have been involved with Merino SA for a long time with three generations in his family.
“My grandfather and great uncles were presidents in the 1950s and early 1960s, and then I had two other uncles who were in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Then I started in the early 1990s and have been involved ever since.”
Another from a long line of breeders is Rachel Titley, who has been chief executive of Merino SA since March.
He grew up on a merino and poll merino estate in Mallee and took great pride in representing those in the industry.
“If you know me, you know I’ve always been a wool champion and ‘sheeping’ is part of who I am,” he said.
“Rachel is Hebrew for sheep, so I think it was always meant for me to be intertwined in the industry somehow.”
Celebrating people and product
Ms Titley said when it comes to what the Merino breed is famous for, the wool has stood the test of time and should be celebrated alongside Merino SA.
“There’s a lot of products that come and go, there’s a lot of fads out there,” he said.
“I think what’s really exciting is that not only has wool stood the test of time, but because of the properties it has, this giant pendulum has swung back to wool.
“We’re looking at a product made with sunlight, grass and water.”
“For those of us inside, we’ve always known the magic of this fiber and also the environmental goodness that comes with this fiber, but now we’re seeing the wider public see it and also embrace it. It’s really exciting.”
Looking forward to Merino SA
Having already completed 100 years for Merino SA, Ashrose North’s Tom Ashby sees a bright future for the association and its breeders.
“I think the way breeders raise their sheep is ethically quite right, we still get enough wool and I see the future of the wool and meat industry going really well and building on everything that is being done now. the next generation of breeders.”
White River’s John Daniell agrees Merino SA has a good herd of the next generation to continue its progress.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good young breeders in the 30-40 age group and some even younger and us older guys are learning a bit from them.”
The pride of the Merino family
For John Daniell, he said Merino SA had a lot to be proud of in its 100 years of operation.
“It seems our state can produce an animal that people from all over Australia and the world love to come and try.
“We seem to be able to move with the times with the type of sheep that people are looking for and what we need to breed. And I like to think that we’re a pretty adaptable organization and we have an adaptable product that works well in most environments and at the end of the day I guess I’m proud of that. enough to do and Merino SA has played a role in making SA so successful.”
For Rachel Titley, being part of Merino SA is about more than just ram sales and politics.
“We’re a family, and I think what’s interesting about the 100-year celebrations is that we’ve been with many of us over the decades, ups and downs and all kinds of individual family farm breeding journeys,” he said.
“Those in the industry continue to represent our people and our product with such excellence.”