GENERATIONS of consistent classing goals and decision-making - with the long-term always in focus - have underpinned the continual breeding success of CT Merriman & Son's two Merino studs.
Jono and Anna Merriman own and operate Merrignee Merino stud and Koonwarra Merino stud at their Little Range property near Boorowa, on the NSW southwest slopes.
Merrignee was founded in 1990 from Charlie's (Jono's father) one-fifth share of Merryville stud. Koonwarra, meanwhile, was bought into in 2006 and fully-owned by CT Merriman & Son in 2014, with the two enterprises creating a formidable player in what is a fiercely competitive Merino stud business.
Uniquely, the dual stud program allows the Merriman family to offer clients rams suitable for all wool growing areas of Australia. Those requiring plain-bodied, heavy-cutting fine to medium wool types to traditional ultra-fine wool types that also cut exceptional fleece weights for their micron.
The micron spectrum available is a massive 14 to 21.5, from Merrignee's ultra-fines to Koonwarra mediums, with the fine to mediums of both studs sitting at about 18.5 microns. Both studs are registered as Merino and Poll Merino studs.
Studmaster Jono Merriman said his grandfather Bruce Merriman and his father had followed the strict rule of "cull quickly and cull consistently" based on wool style, wool quality, structure, body shape, size, backline, feet and constitution.
"When Charlie established the Merrignee stud he maintained the classing framework that was passed down from Bruce as much as possible, within both the stud enterprises and commercial flocks," he said. "It has worked well and has had a big impact across numerous merino flocks' genetics.
"Charlie was strict about what he classed into the Merrignee stud ewes and selective of what outside bloodlines, through AI, were brought into Merrignee. By sticking to these classing standards over 30 years we have been able to keep a lot of the environmental impacts from affecting the quality of wool and structure of our Merino sheep."
Mr Merriman said with their strong stud ewe-type base and consistent classing goals, the Merrignee Merino sheep offered ultra-fine to fine clean-handling wool. In 2021, the Merrignee maiden ewes cut an average of 7.1kg, with a yield of 69.6, a micron average of 17.6, spinning fineness of 16.5 and had an average body weight of 67kg.
"We want to maintain the traditional fine wool style, while not sacrificing cut," he said. "So, we have made an effort to increase the fleece weight by achieving a higher follicle count."
The Merrignee super-fine wool staple length averages 85 to 95mm, perfect for the lucrative "top end" Italian and Chinese markets, while fine wool ranges from 100 to 110mm. The Koonwarra stud is more focused on providing larger, plainer bodied-type sheep, that also tolerate wet climatic conditions. The 2021 Koonwarra maiden ewes cut an average 8.3kg, with a yield of 68, a micron average of 18.8, spinning fineness of 17.9 and an average body weight of 78kg.
Mr Merriman said the rams targeted the fine to medium wool market, with the Koonwarra sheep being classed to the same wool quality and frame structure correctness as the Merrignee stud, just heavier.
"The Merrignee sheep have a good following locally and through the traditional fine wool areas of NSW and Victoria," he said.
"The Koonwarra sheep go to similar areas, as well as the plains country, with clients from the Southern Tablelands, the Monaro, Riverina and Central West.
"The majority of our clients are long-standing, loyal and passionate about the Merino industry and interested in how our studs can improve the long-term profitability of their enterprises. We work with our clientele, using our Merino genetics to help increase fleece weight and body weight productivity within their flocks and reduce undesirable traits they wish to avoid."
The farming enterprise at Little Range also incorporates commercial Merino sheep, commercial and stud Poll Hereford cattle and a dual-purpose cropping program.
The lambing programs are separated, with Koonwarra lambing in May-June, while Merrignee is August-September. The property, which sits about 500 metres above sea level, has an average rainfall of 670mm.
The Merrimans host separate open days and separate on-property ram sales. Koonwarra's open day is Friday, September 17, and ram sale Wednesday, September 22, while Merrignee's open day is Friday, October 1, and ram sale Friday, October 8. At the open days, the Merrimans display the 2020-drop paddock-reared rams - individually penned - plus stud ewes and sires. This allows clients to inspect the studs' genetics.