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Beyond the Bale : September 2014
ON FARM 39 The future of the Australian wool industry is in safe and enthusiastic hands if the success of a recent stockhandling school is any indication. The inaugural Next-Gen Low Stress Stockhandling (LSS) school, hosted by Simon and Penny Foster of ‘Merton Vale’ at Campbell Town in Tasmania, was the brainchild of 14-year-old Scotch Oakburn College student Henry Napier. For Henry, the school achieved two goals: it provided a platform for his Inspire Y8 school project and allowed him to share with his peers an enriching experience with renowned trainer and friend Grahame Rees. “Last year I attended one of Grahame’s schools with a group of adults and I knew lots of other kids who would enjoy it as much as I did,” Henry said. “One of the most important things Grahame teaches is ‘attitude is everything’ (it is the motto of the school). This is not only true when handling stock but is a valuable rule for life in general.” Participants in the school included 27 young men and women aged from 11 to 18 years of age, from both farming and urban backgrounds. The goal for many of the young participants was to get an insight into the minds of the livestock they work with and discover how they could handle safely and calmly – and control themselves as well. Grahame Rees says the principles of low stress stockhandling are timeless. “We discussed the concept of ‘flight’ zones, the importance of body language when working with stock, and the need to be aware of when to apply pressure and, more importantly, when to release it,” Grahame said. “I explained to the kids that these principles are as relevant for working with people as they are with livestock.” Grahame found the young participants were fast learners. “What takes two days to teach adults can be absorbed in one day by these enthusiastic young people,” Grahame said. “They are quick to learn and haven’t been indoctrinated with a certain way of doing things.” A highlight of the school was listening to two guest speakers who have recently embarked on careers in agriculture. After 12 months working on ‘Nerstane Merino Stud’ in the northern tablelands of NSW, Will Fergusson is currently working on his family’s mixed farming business, Grindstone Bay Pastoral on Tasmania’s east coast, before continuing his studies. “I love that every day you can be doing a different job,” Will said. “My time in NSW gave me the opportunity to see so many different ways of doing things, not only on Nerstane but through meeting neighbours and learning more about the things they are doing.” Growing up in Lauderdale, on the outskirts of Hobart, Will’s partner Sophie Murfitt-Cowan is a relatively new entrant to agriculture. “I am regularly amazed at how incredibly clever farmers are,” Sophie said. “Farmers are extremely knowledgeable individuals with a broad range of skills.” All the participants of the school came away full of enthusiasm to put into practice the principles they had learnt. For Henry Napier the experience was a rewarding one. “The best thing about the school for me was seeing the smiles on the faces of all 27 participants and seeing so many young people keen to give up time in their school holidays to learn skills that will benefit them throughout life,” Henry said. Now that’s an attitude to be proud of. POSITIVE ATTITUDE DRIVES NEXT GENERATION Next-Gen LSS coordinator, Henry Napier, 14 (centre) shares the finer points of low stress stock handling with his friends Charlotte Loane, 11 and Lachie Warren, 14. PHOTO: Catriona Nicholls. • The next generation of woolgrowers has been busy honing their stockmanship skills at a low stress stockhandling school coordinated by 14-year- old Henry Napier. • Body language is critical when communicating with stock and knowing when to apply and when to release pressure is the key to safe and effective stockhandling. • Attitude is everything was the key message delivered to the 27 young participants by trainer Grahame Rees.