After four years of producing the world’s finest wool fleece, the Rowbottoms of St Helens near Port Fairy have lost the title.
The Rowbottoms, of “Rowensville”, came second in this year’s competition for the prestigious Vellus Aureum (Golden Fleece) Trophy.
The international competition, which this year attracted 235 entries, is for fleeces 14.5 micron and under. Other factors than micron are also considered by the competition judges including the fleece’s weight, style, soundness, evenness and level of excellence.
Ross and Rebecca Blake from “Allandale” at Walcha, east of Tamworth in NSW, won the trophy while Annie Hutchinson from “Kentucky Station” at Kentucky, north of Walcha, NSW, came third.
The Vellus Aureum is supported by the Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna that offers 500 grams of gold as first prize.
David Rowbottom said coming second in the competition was still “pretty good.” He said fleece weight had been given more importance in the competition in recent years, which was likely to have counted against the 11.1 micron merino fleece the family submitted.
First and third place went to fleeces that were twice the weight of the one from Rowensville, Mr Rowbottom said.
Despite winning only a silver tray this year instead of the gold, Mr Rowbottom said the family still held the title of the most successful exhibitor in the Vellus Aureum.
Apart from its four first places, the family had also won four seconds and one third in the past seven years.
An improvement in prices for extreme fine wool in the past year has also helped the family take the loss of the title on the chin.
Mr Rowbottom said prices for ultrafine wool had not been viable for the past six years but the family had this year secured a contract that paid “reasonable prices.”
The family has a flock of about 3000 merinos but only manages about about 300 of them to produce ultrafine fleeces.
The Zegna company also supports the annual Superfine Wool Trophy that this year was won by David and Angie Waters of Tarrangower Merinos, Hillgrove, east of Armidale in NSW.
Second place went to Allan and Carolyn Phillips, of Glen Stuart, Deddington, south east of Launceston, Tasmania, and third to Ed and Jill Hundy of Windradeen, Mudgee -Pyramul in NSW.
Zegna said that from next year’s competition for the Superfine Wool Trophy, the company would not only buy all the participating 10 winning wool lots with a 50 per cent premium over the market price, it would also buy from them a total of 100 bales shorn in the following 2019-2020 season at the market price plus a 25 per cent premium.