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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
oral presentations, speaking ability and general presentation,” Stuart said. “I really enjoyed competing in the championship – it was a fantastic and well-organised event with lots of industry people attending” Stuart is originally from the rural area of Pinjarra, 80km south of Perth, but he wasn’t brought up on a farm and hadn’t had anything to do with sheep until he attended the WA College of Agriculture at Harvey. “At college for three years I specialised in sheep and developed my love for the industry. I also attended AWI’s National Merino Challenge for three consecutive years which helped me learn more about wool. My college experience really spurred me on to focus on sheep as a career,” he said. “I’m currently working for Landmark at Esperance as an account manager in the animal health area. I definitely want to stay in agriculture and want to give everything a go. I would love to stay in sheep – there’s lots of money in it at the moment – and ultimately, I want to own and run my own sheep property.” The National Merino Sheep Young Judges Championship was won by Adam Bennett of Everton Upper in Victoria, followed by Klay Smith of Cowell in South Australia in second place, and Kaiden Johnston of Quairading in Western Australia in third place. Competitors had 12 minutes to judge eight poll Merino sheep (four ewes and four rams) put up for appraisal and were judged on their handling as well as their reasoning. The winner, 18-year old Adam Bennett, who is a shearer by day, also helps his parents run their Bennmann Merino Stud at Everton Upper. “Being a fifth-generation sheep farmer, Merinos are in my blood,” Adam said. “I have a passion for the breed; it was bred into me from a little tacker and that’ll never change.” Adam has been attending the Australian Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo since he was a six-year-old and began his judging career in the Junior Judging there from age 16; this year he was invited to be an Associate Judge for Merinos at Bendigo. This year was Adam’s second attempt at the National title, after competing in the National finals in 2017 at the Royal Melbourne Show. He said competing at the National Championships is a wonderful way to improve confidence and further a young person’s knowledge of the Merino breed by being around others in the industry. “When judging, I look at the wool first, before assessing the other traits to see if they would be productive and profitable in the current environment,” Adam said. He would like to judge at more events, in Victoria and interstate, and get the opportunity to evaluate more elite sheep, as well as continuing to display and show Merinos from Bennmann. Anthony Close from Culla in Victoria has been awarded a 2019 Nuffield Scholarship supported by AWI and will investigate ways that Australia can increase its national Merino flock. Anthony Close farms with his parents Robert and Bernadette and his brother Simon at ‘Kurra-Warra’ at the north of the Western Districts of Victoria. The 26-year-old says Kurra-Warra has been in the Close family for many generations. “We built our family farm off the back of the Merinos,” he said. “We currently run about 7,000 Merino ewes of 18-micron, with half run as a self-replacing Merino flock and the other half producing prime lambs. The family also runs a large cattle operation.” Acknowledging the shrinking size of Australia’s sheep flock throughout the past 20 years, Anthony said his focus of his Nuffield studies will be researching the range of factors that have caused this reduction, comparing the industry with those overseas to gain a better understanding of what makes progressive industries grow and prosper. “In 1992 the national sheep flock was 150 million head, and produced 4.75 million bales of wool. In 2018, the flock is 70 million head, and will produce two million bales,” he said. “Given the impact that this reduction in flock numbers has on both wool and sheepmeat production, it’s important to understand and sheepmart how we can reverse this downward trend to secure the sustainability and relevance of the industry. “Wool prices are at historically record levels at the moment and there is a lot of confidence in the industry, despite the current lack of rainfall in many areas, so I hope my research will identify ways that the Merino can once again become a prominent feature of the Australian farming landscape.” Anthony has completed a three-year agricultural science degree at La Trobe University and is an active hands-on Deputy Chair of the Balmoral Sire Evaluation Trial. Anthony’s Nuffield studies will take him to New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and the United States. By supporting the Nuffield Scholarship program each year, AWI is increasing farming knowledge and management skills in the Australian wool industry. MORE INFORMATION: Information on previous AWI Nuffield woolgrower scholars and their reports are available at www.wool.com/nuffield Anthony Close from Culla in Victoria will investigate ways that Australia can increase its national Merino flock, as part of an AWI-funded Nuffield Scholarship. AIM TO BOOST MERINO FLOCK NUFFIELD STUDIES ON FARM 73
In the Shops - March 2019