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Beyond the Bale : June 2015
28 ON FARM HANDS ON AT THE NATIONAL MERINO CHALLENGE Nearly 100 students from 14 schools, colleges, universities and TAFEs from across Australia last month came together for the National Merino Challenge (NMC) in Adelaide, South Australia. An AWI initiative, the NMC involves presentations and demonstrations from industry professionals to enable young people to develop their industry knowledge, skills and networks. Students participated in seven ‘mini-challenges’ across two days, testing their knowledge of Merino fleece, production and breeding and selection principles. The mini challenges were: 1. AWEX typing 2. Wool valuing 3. Visual score assessment 4. Condition scoring 5. Nutrition and feed budgeting 6. Ewe selection 7. Ram selection Techniques from several well-known industry initiatives, such as MERINOSELECT, Lifetime Ewe Management and Visual Sheep Scores, were used throughout the NMC, giving students a realistic and practical insight into the tools available to growers to make more informed decisions. Other highlights of the NMC program included a shearing demonstration from world champion shearer Shannon Warnest, a presentation by Deanne Irwin of Australian Wool Network on the importance of effective woolhandling techniques for good clip preparation, and a careers session in which students were provided with advice on entering the agricultural sector from a panel of young professionals already in the industry. The NMC Industry Dinner was attended by more than 190 people. Students enjoyed the keynote speech from Shannon Warnest and said they relished the opportunity to spend the evening with a range of wool industry participants, from woolgrowers to wool brokers and researchers. Belinda Amess from La Trobe University in Melbourne, who won the tertiary division, said she found the two-day event to be a valuable experience. “I come from a superfine Merino property at Caramut in the Western District of Victoria and I’ve always had a keen interest in wool, so one of my favourite activities was the AWEX typing. It was a great feeling to win the competition – the La Trobe team prepared for the competition with the help of our trainer Hannah White who was a great motivator. “I’m in my first year at uni, studying a joint Commerce and Ag Science degree, so it was really useful to meet the industry experts here and see the extent of career opportunities there are in the wool industry. Although it’s early days for me, areas I’m interested in include agribusiness, research and wool brokering.” For the second year running, the individual winner of the secondary school division was from Cummins Area School on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. This year it was Daniel Puckridge who reigned supreme. “I really enjoyed doing all the activities and meeting so many students from all across Australia. To win the event was a great surprise, but it really topped off a great weekend. “We had done a fair bit of preparation, with the help of our trainer James Pedler, and been out to Joe Dahlitz’s property, Roemahkita, near Cummins where Syd Lawrie and Joe demonstrated to us some hands on skills with sheep such as condition scoring and visual classing – which all proved very useful here in the competition at Adelaide. “I come from a sheep, cattle and cropping property, and am interested in doing an Ag Science degree at uni. The event was a good opportunity to talk to all the industry people and hear the plans of the other students; it was a great networking event as well as being a competition.” Cummins Area School also won the team event in the secondary school division, whilst Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga came out on top in the tertiary division. Participating schools, TAFEs and universities were: • Burra Community School, SA • Cleve Area School, SA • Cummins Area School, SA • Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW Condition scoring was one of the seven activities in the National Merino Challenge competition. • AWI’s recently held National Merino Challenge (NMC) was a success, with 98 students from across Australia heading to Adelaide to compete in the educational initiative. • The NMC connected the future of the wool industry with industry professionals, highlighting an array of careers which involve working with wool. • Cummins Area School was the Champion Team in the secondary school division, whilst Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga was the Champion Team in the tertiary division.