A true labour of love

A hobby that became a passion for Crookwell wool growers

Sheep
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A hobby that became a passion for Southern Tablelands wool growers.

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FINE PURSUIT: Paul Seaman, left, with his son Neil. At their Rosemont operation, the main aim is continual improvement of the family's flock.

FINE PURSUIT: Paul Seaman, left, with his son Neil. At their Rosemont operation, the main aim is continual improvement of the family's flock.

It has been four years since Paul and Margy Seaman, Rosemont, Crookwell, in the southern tablelands of NSW, made history in the National Fleece Competition - succeeding over stud competitors to take out the grand champion title with their commercial entry.

In those four years, not much has changed, except for the fact their middle son, Neil, has joined them on-farm in their quest for an ever-improving fine wool Merino flock.

Each year, for the largest fully measured fleece competition in the world, a rolling mob of 20 wethers chosen from 400 are separated as potential top fleece makers. Out of that 20, only about six make the cut.

The sheep are chosen at 14-months-old and shorn in May. That, according to Neil, is the first time you get a true hint of the calibre of the wool they are growing and producing.

"Once they are shorn, we get an early indication of what their wool could be like," he said.

"We will shear about 20 for each show - Bendigo and Dubbo - and, from that, we will decide what gets entered and what doesn't."

Running about 4000 Merinos, their flock has an average fleece fibre diameter of 18.5-micron and cuts about 6.8 kilograms of wool per head.

Paul said the fleeces they select for the Bendigo show have to be micron tested.

"There could be 16 that we pick out - the eight finest with the best constitution and frame will go to Bendigo because Bendigo is judged almost purely on test figures," he said.

"Whereas at Dubbo National - and nearly every other show - a large component of the judging is visual. At Bendigo you have to have a fleece that is going to have a chance of winning with its figures."

In 2019, Rosemont missed out on winning the grand champion title for the second time by only half a point.

This year their focus has turned to Dubbo National Sheep Show and Sale, with the Australian Sheep and Wool Show cancelled earlier in the year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Neil said the plan was to hopefully enter six fleeces, but their main aim was to be continually improving what they present.

"If all things go to plan and Dubbo is on, we should have a strong team again," Neil said.

"It's a live-and-learn thing. Dad and I go to a lot of shows together - we look at what we do right and what we could do differently. We try to improve every year."

At Rosemont, shearing is split - with ewes shorn in May and wethers in November.

The sheep selected as growing potential show fleeces are also shorn separately.

Neil, who sits in the middle of three sons for Margy and Paul, made the move to take on the operation full-time three years ago. Although, for 10 years before that he was there at key times.

Apart from working on the day-to-day duties, he has successfully completed his wool classing certificate in that time.

"I am getting older and slower and I don't know if I'm getting any wiser, maybe just more cunning - so it is great to have Neil here full-time," Paul said.

Neil said the wider plans for the future stretch beyond the fleece competitions.

"Every year, our main focus is on Bendigo and Dubbo shows, as far as fleece competitions are concerned," he said.

"We also like to support our local show here in Crookwell, as well as having a representation at Sydney Royal Easter Show.

"But our main focus is more about the continued improvement of our flock.

"What we want to do is establish ourselves as a reputable commercial flock that breeds well-nourished fleeces from healthy, well structured sheep."

Paul said it was Landmark stalwart, the late Kevin Coves, who had convinced the family to first exhibit their fleeces at Dubbo more than 25 years ago.

"What started as a hobby has become a passion," he said

A hobby has become a passion - Paul Seaman

"When we won the grand champion title at Bendigo, as a wool breeder, it was the ultimate reward.

"It will always be an honour to win the prestigious fleece event.

"Wool is the ultimate fabric and a labour of love for us."

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