President of the World Federation of Merino Breeders (WFMB), Robert Ashby, Hallett, South Australia, has announced that Merino SA (the South African Merino breeders’ society) will host the 9th World Merino Conference in 2014 (Merino 2014).

The conference will be held from 28 April to 1 May in the picturesque university town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape region, 40 kilometres east of Cape Town.

Founded in 1679, Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa, recognised worldwide for its oak-lined streets and whitewashed gabled Cape-Dutch architecture dating from the 17 and 18th centuries. The centre of a thriving wine producing region, some of the world’s finest wineries and farm-based restaurants will tempt conference visitors.

World Merino conferences are held every four years, hosted by one of the thirteen member countries of the WFMB, with the aim of facilitating and promoting the breeding of Merino sheep and the use of Merino wool, meat and by-products throughout the world as well as keeping abreast of trends and developments.

“Many will remember the very successful 3rd World Merino Conference of 1990 that was held in Pretoria, South Africa,” Mr Ashby said.
“I’m confident that another conference in that country will be equally well organised and exciting and there is already strong interest from Australian breeders.”

Chairman of Merino 2014, Francois van der Merwe, said that the Merino industry is thriving in South Africa with the three breeds, Merino, Dohne Merino and South African Mutton Merino being highly productive and fertile dual-purpose sheep.

“South African Merino breeders are progressive and scientific in their approach and Merino genetics from this country are regularly exported to other wool-producing countries,” he said.

“Not only is South Africa an important Merino breeding country, but it also has produced Merino scientists of note who have contributed handsomely to the progress this breed has made over many years in the fields of genetics and reproduction, nutrition and production, sheep health and welfare.

“Delegates and visitors to the conference will be exposed to the results and successes of such research,” Mr van der Merwe said, adding that “conference speakers will also be drawn from the international industry to ensure a world-wide perspective”.

The two-day conference will feature an array of speakers and topics and “the focus will be much wider than the physiology and psychology of sheep”.

Merino 2014’s theme, “Merino Breeding – sustainable enterprise – a cherished way of life”, will be reflected in the presentations while the proceedings will be interspersed with colourful social activities and entertainment as well as two days of pre-conference functions.

The first Merinos were brought from Europe to South Africa, then the Cape of Good Hope, in 1789, and Merino 2014 will also mark the 225th anniversary of that significant event.