A Mourne Blackface fleece is the winner of the 2017 British Wool National Golden Fleece competition, in association with JG Animal Health.
Entered by Sam McConnell from Newry, Co Down, the fleece has been recognised as the best in the UK. The 2017 Reserve Champion title was awarded to Sandra Brown from Ashford, Kent with a Black Wensleydale fleece.
The results were announced on Wednesday, 8th November at British Wool’s annual conference of regional committee representatives in Exeter. The Golden Fleece is a nationwide competition open to all British Wool producers, aiming to highlight the quality of British wool. Producers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are invited to enter their fleeces at any of the eleven British Wool depots across the UK. In addition, the champion fleeces from 14 regional agricultural shows attended by British Wool were automatically entered into the four country finals.
The competition attracts entries from all corners of the UK, and the final eight include two fleeces from each home nation - one traditional carpet type, and one speciality/knitwear type. The winning Mourne Blackface fleece was entered into the final having won the fleece competition at Castlewellan Show in Northern Ireland in July this year.
On announcing details of the winners, Ian Buchanan, British Wool Chairman, said: “More than 12 million fleeces are presented at British Wool depots every year.
“That is a staggering number, and highlights the level of competition. To achieve a place in the final is a tremendous achievement, and all should be proud to have produced and presented the exceptional quality required. I congratulate them all, and especially the Champions.”
This year’s competition was judged by British Wool Sales Manager Stephen Spencer, who was keen to stress that this was no easy task, as every fleece in the final eight had its own individual qualities.
Stephen said: “The winning fleece was an excellent example of the breed, and displayed incredible uniformity throughout, a characteristic we rate highly in fleece competition. It was a worthy winner in a very strong line-up of fleeces, which were all strong finalists.”
Sam McConnell, 2017 National Golden Fleece winner said: “It is an honour to be presented with this prestigious title. It is so rewarding to be recognised for our efforts and it motivates me to continue improving.”
Mr Buchanan concluded: “The support we have received this year has been fantastic, and we look forward to working with wool producers and agricultural shows in 2018 to build on this national celebration of our industry’s leading producers.”
The winner of the 2017 National Golden Fleece Champion will receive a competition salver and £500, and Reserve Champion will receive £250.