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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
40 ON FARM NATIONAL MERINO CHALLENGE 2018 More than 120 students from across Australia came together in May for the National Merino Challenge (NMC), an AWI initiative that has established itself as a leading education program for students interested in a career in the wool industry. Held in Adelaide this year, the NMC involves presentations and demonstrations from industry professionals to enable young people to develop their industry knowledge, skills and networks. Now in its sixth year, the annual two- day event has provided more than 600 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 this year’s two-day event, the students were 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. Students also enjoyed the NMC Industry Dinner on the Saturday evening and said they relished the opportunity to spend time with a range of wool industry FAST FACTS • More than 120 students from across Australia enjoyed an introduction to the wool industry at this year’s National Merino Challenge. • Now in its sixth year, the AWI educational initiative connects the future generation 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. A Tasmanian Schools team was the Champion Team in the secondary school division, whilst the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, UTAS, was the Champion Team in the tertiary division. Networking among fellow ag students and wool industry professionals is major part of the NMC. participants, from woolgrowers to wool brokers and researchers. The keynote speech was delivered by the sheep reproduction veterinarian Michelle Humphries who shared her 33-year journey since being a graduate working as one of the world’s first full time commercial laparoscopic inseminators. Emma McCrabb, who is studying in her final year of an Agriculture/Business degree at the University of New England, said this year was her second year at the NMC. “The event is a fantastic opportunity for all us students. I love the producer focus, it’s exciting and we’re all learning really practical skills, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to network,” she said. “At the end of the weekend, students don’t just end up walking away with a career path, we walk away with about several different options. The wool industry is such an exciting place to be, particularly at the moment.” NMC project manager Ben Watts said the NMC continues to grow strongly because it delivers what enthusiastic young people want. “It was great to see the eagerness and energy of the students so keen to learn about wool which is a credit to them and their teachers,” he said. “The NMC is also fortunate to receive tremendous support from this great industry.” AWI Sheep Industry Specialist Stuart Hodgson said the NMC is an example of the strong focus on education at AWI which is helping train the next generation of woolgrowers and wool specialists. “It takes an enormous effort from a large team of people to run the NMC. We have a great NMC organising committee supported by AWI staff to make this a success. It’s been a great team effort all round.” AWI thanks the following partners of the 2018 NMC without whom the event would not be possible: Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of SA, Landmark, Government of South Australia, Australian Wool Network, Rodwells, Bank SA, Merino SA, Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, Elders, Australian Wool Education Trust, Techwool Trading, Michell, Fox & Lillie, Career Harvest, as well as the dedicated volunteers for their time and expertise. The 2019 NMC will be held at Sydney Showgrounds on the weekend of 25-26 May. Registration opens in April 2019. MORE INFORMATION www.wool.com/NMC Hear more from NMC project manager Ben Watts and several student participants in Episode 42 of AWI’s The Yarn podcast, and also hear from Michelle Humphries in Episode 45, at www.wool.com/podcast
In the Shops - September 2018