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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
February – March 2009 Beyond the Bale profile 23 sonja Johnson’s 4,000 Merino ewes are based on Tasmania’s ‘Norwood Merino Stud’ bloodlines and are classed by ‘Norwood’ principal Anthony Archer. Each year, the top 400 ewes are selected for an AI program, 1,600 are joined to Merino sires, and 2,000 ewes are used for prime lamb production. “My production goal is to have ewes that produce long, lustrous white wool with good fertility, producing replacement ewes and wether lambs, which can be sold into the prime lamb market,” Sonja says. “I’m also planning a new stable complex and I’ve asked it be designed with a false floor that can be raised when I want to show rams … my horsey friends think I’m really strange.” “ i used to say being a wool producer was the ideal occupation for an equestrian.” sonja Johnson – sonja johnson Woolgrower and Olympic Silver Medallist photo: evan colliS groWer giveS an olyMpic eFFort Woolgrower Sonja Johnson is determined to use her silver medal win at the Beijing Olympics to promote Australian Merino o ne thing has consistently thwarted Sonja Johnson’s ambitions for her Merino ewe enterprise – her career as an olympic equestrian. Since the Beijing olympics in august 2008, West australian Sonja Johnson has put in just four days work on the 1000-hectare farm ‘parkiarrup’ she runs with her parents, north-east of albany. “i used to say being a wool producer was the ideal occupation for an equestrian, as i could leave the farm for an event and my job would always be there when i came back. But this year has stretched things to the limit,” she says. thankfully, Sonja’s parents, dan and phoebe, were only too happy to keep the farm running smoothly while their daughter trained for and competed in last year’s olympic games, scoring a silver medal for australia in the three-day equestrian team event. “it’s full credit to my parents who keep things going while i’m away. My mother had a long career in education and i said to her the other day, ‘it must be nice to retire’, and she answered, ‘What retirement?’” Sonja says. however, the Johnsons appreciate Sonja’s efforts to make the most of her medal win. one of her key aims is to help promote australian Merino as a fibre ideal for sportswear. in the lead-up to the olympics, Sonja worked tirelessly to increase the amount of wool used in the equestrian uniforms. her sponsor, ascot outfitters, has always used Merino in the garments it supplies to horse enthusiasts around the world and, through aWi, discovered a new lightweight, machine-washable fabric, which is cool in hot conditions, making it ideal for their equestrian jackets. Sonja says that, to her teammates’ delight, they coped beautifully with the humid conditions of hong Kong. during the olympics, Sonja promoted australian agriculture at every opportunity, right up until the closing ceremony. “i noticed Meat and livestock australia (Mla) were hosting a dinner promoting australian meat, and olympians were encouraged to attend, so instead of going to the women’s basketball final with all the other olympians, i took my medal along to the Mla dinner. i was the only australian olympian present, but everyone was so thrilled i made the effort,” she says. as the olympic fanfare dies down, Sonja looks forward to returning to the farm and concentrating on her sheep and training her new horse, parkiarrup illicit liaison, with a view to competing at the world championships in two years’ time and the 2012 london olympics. More information: Sonja Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org – KellIe penfold
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009