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Beyond the Bale : September 2017
More than 100 students from across Australia came together in May for the National Merino Challenge (NMC), this year held in Melbourne. An AWI initiative, the NMC involves presentations and demonstrations from industry professionals to enable young people to develop their industry knowledge, skills and networks. Now in its fifth year, the annual two-day event has provided around 500 secondary and tertiary students with the basic skills involved in the wool industry – both traditional and modern methods – as well as an understanding of the career opportunities within the industry. During the two-day event, the students are educated and then assessed on their skills across a wide range of areas such as feed budgeting, condition scoring, breeding objectives and wool harvesting together with the commercial assessment and classing of animals and fleeces. 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 woolgrowers to make more informed decisions. Other highlights of the NMC program included a shearing demonstration, including an Upright Posture Shearing Platform, and a careers session in which students were provided with advice on entering the agricultural sector from a panel of five young professionals already in the industry. Students enjoyed the NMC Industry Dinner on the Saturday evening and said they relished the opportunity to spend time with a range of wool industry participants, from woolgrowers to wool brokers and researchers. The keynote speeches were delivered by the President of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, Georgina Wallace, and AWI director Colette Garnsey. The winner of the Tertiary Division was Emily Attard, a second year Bachelor of Agriculture student from the University of Melbourne. Home for Emily is on the Mornington Peninsula, where her family has a hobby farm, but her interest in sheep began in secondary school at Flinders College which has a Corriedale stud. With her friend Kate Methven, she has now set up the Tuerong Valley Corriedale stud with seven breeding ewes. “I found the National Merino Challenge to be a very informative and rewarding experience,” Emily said. “It is practical and hands-on, with a range of industry professionals imparting their experience and advice to students. My favourite activity was the economic part where we were presented with a poor performing sheep and a sheep that performed well and we had to examine their difference in profit. “Networking with other ag students and professionals from across the country was another highlight. It is great that AWI runs this initiative as it enables ag students to get involved in the sheep and wool industry and see the opportunities in it – there is nothing like the NMC in any other industry.” After completing her Bachelor of Agriculture, Emily hopes to study for a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Melbourne with a focus on sheep and cows. “Attending the National Merino Challenge has not only made me more knowledgeable, but definitely keener to pursue a career in the sheep industry.” AWI manager of extension, Emily King, said the NMC has quickly established itself as a leading education program for young students interested in a career in the wool industry. “The NMC fits well with the strong focus on education within the current AWI Strategic Plan which aims to not only train the next generation of woolgrowers and wool specialists but the next generation of textile professionals who wish to work in the wool industry,” she added. AWI thanks the following partners of the 2017 NMC without whom the event would not be possible: Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Australian Wool Education Trust, Australian Wool Network, Landmark, Rodwells, Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, Elders, Fox & Lillie Rural, Michell Direct Wool, Techwool Trading, as well as the dedicated volunteers for their time and expertise. FAST FACTS • More than 100 students from across Australia enjoyed an introduction to the wool industry at this year’s National Merino Challenge. • Now in its fifth year, the AWI educational initiative connects the future of the wool industry with industry professionals, highlighting an array of careers which involve working with wool. • Students participate in seven ‘mini-challenges’ across two days. Cummins Area School was the Champion Team in the secondary school division, whilst Charles Sturt University was the Champion Team in the tertiary division. Champion of the Tertiary Division Emily Attard of the University of Melbourne with NMC steering committee member and South Australian woolgrower Sydney Lawrie. PHOTO: Jamie- Lee Oldfield/Newspix NATIONAL MERINO CHALLENGE 2017 34 ON FARM
In the Shops - September 2017