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Beyond the Bale : Dec 06 - Jan 07
17 EDUCATION BEYOND THE BALE Young scientists aim to boost profitability current low numbers. A greater focus on dual-purpose genetics could help ensure that Australia can supply enough product into both our valuable wool and meat industries." He plans to travel to South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands to identify potential new genetic sources and objective performance-testing techniques to enhance productivity gains for Australia's wool industry. James Walker hopes to gain an insight into global production systems and how different countries compete with similar products on his Nuffield tour. "Sometimes a completely different industry can give insight into how to improve methods in our own industry," he says. Breeding, production, harvesting and quality assurance procedures and processes will also be investigated by visiting Europe, Russia, the US, Canada and China. Mr Walker, who operates a sheep and beef stud as well as fine wool, commercial cattle, agroforestry, prime lamb, horticultural and seed production enterprises on a 2500ha property, plans a long future in wool production. "I have confidence in the industry. However, many of my colleagues are not seeing the same bright future and I would like to be able to encourage them through what I learn." -- REBECCA THYER This year's winner of the AWI-sponsored Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has the chance to research a topic she is passionate about -- soil biology -- in a bid to improve the wool industry. By looking into the natural riches contained within Australia's soils, ACT-based Susan Orgill wants to help growers reduce reliance on inorganic fertilisers. Her project will examine soil fertility's economic benefits and satisfy an enthusiasm she has for the sustainable management of 'living soil'. "More attention is often given to the management of chemical and physical factors than to soil biological processes," she says. "I work with growers who increasingly face issues such as drought, poor wool prices and nutrient depletion. This project will help me service what they have identified as important: improved nutrient supply through managing for a healthy and productive living soil. In time, farms could reduce reliance on inorganic inputs and thus reduce production costs." Another 2006 Science and Innovation Award winner will also be researching Australia's wool industry. Land and Water Australia-sponsored winner Megan Chadwick, who is based in WA, will study 'salt-resistant' sheep. Ms Chadwick says that although saltbush can lower supplementary feed costs and improve overall profitability, its grazing value is limited by the capacity of sheep to tolerate high salt content. "This experiment will test whether lambs from ewes on a high-salt diet during pregnancy gain more weight, produce more wool or have better meat quality when grazing saltbush than normal sheep." -- REBECCA THYER Megan Chadwick and a salty lamb. Susan Orgill Aveek Shahryar, from Janata Jute Mills, and Samiran Roy, from Jaya Sharee Textiles in India, inspect a sheep's fleece for the first time during the training course. More than 100 people participated in the inaugural Wool Textile Training Centre Program held at CSIRO's Textile and Fibre Technology division in Geelong,Victoria. The intensive format included 63 presentations delivered by industry heavyweights on a diverse array of themes, including how Australian wool is purchased, manufactured into textile products and marketed, as well as the decision-making processes involved. Attendees represented all sectors of the wool-processing pipeline, and came from as far afield as China and India to gain a greater understanding of specific processes and market sectors. World champion shearer Shannon Warnest and world record-holding shearer Dwayne Black both attended and demonstrated the art of shearing to many who had never witnessed the process before. "Even though I've spent most of my life in the wool industry, this program has rounded my knowledge of what happens past the shearing shed," Mr Warnest says. Representing another stage in the pipeline was Wen Yu, whose family runs the Tian Yu top-making plant in Zhangjiangang, China. Despite processing 100,000 bales of Australian wool annually, it was Wen Yu's first opportunity to get close up and friendly with a sheep. "I am very excited to have the chance to shear a sheep and see how the wool we purchase is brought in from the farms, sold and tested," he says. "I now have a greater appreciation of the complexities of the wool pipeline." Samiran Roy of Jaya Sharee Textiles, a unit of the textile giant Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited of India, was impressed by lectures on top-making and the tours of the Landmark show floor and the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA). "This is the first time I've seen how wool is sold at auction," he says. "I now know the countless characteristics that a top-maker looks for and the decisions and research he makes in the process of buying fibre." Dr Paul Swan, AWI knowledge services manager, was impressed with the calibre of companies participating in the program. "A number of large wool consumers made their way Down Under to learn more about wool processing and marketing," he says. "International companies such as Indorama, Indoworth, Jaya Sharee, Cheil and Reliance Industries all sent personnel. Garment companies and retailers included the US giant VF Corporation and our own Country Road and Target Australia. Clearly there is a thirst for knowledge." Dr Swan says enhancing the knowledge of people who work within the global wool pipeline will contribute to the sustainability of the industry. "It's important that brand managers and retailers understand what wool is about, its price and why wool is held in such high esteem.Through this program, we've developed a resource that can be delivered anywhere in the world." AWI, along with the International Fibre Centre and the Australian Wool Education Trust, is investing in the wool industry's future by establishing this unique wool textiles training program. A repeat program is planned for early 2007. ú More information: www.awttc.com.au Lifting the wool from their eyes
Feb 07 - Mar 07