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Beyond the Bale : March 2013
42 ON-FARM March 2013 BEYOND THE BALE Students, teachers and trainers are now invited to join the National Merino Challenge (NMC) and help improve awareness and engagement in the Merino industry. If the interest so far is any indication, the industry's future is in good hands. The NMC will teach senior secondary and tertiary students the basics of sheep breeding, selection and fleece evaluation, and will be run as an annual two-day event. It will incorporate practical demonstrations and presentations from industry professionals and will integrate "mini challenges" over both days at the event to be held in late August or early September. The aim is to impart vital skills and knowledge to next generation Merino producers and those servicing the industry. A key component of the project is a two-day training workshop for secondary and tertiary trainers to help them keep up to date with sheep breeding and selection skills and industry knowledge (including recent research outcomes and new breeding techniques) in a way that can be easily transferred to their students. The initiative builds on feedback gained from various industry consultation meetings, including representatives which included teachers, trainers, extension staff, service providers, and commercial and stud breeders. The recent call for NMC committee members yielded a large number of high calibre applicants, demonstrating the industry's commitment to fostering youth in the Merino industry and has set the scene for a strong launch of this important initiative. The project will be guided by the committee, whose members are all active in the Merino industry. National Merino Challenge Steering Committee • Russell Bush, Narellan Vale NSW • Hamish Chandler, Ben Lomond NSW • Michelle Cousins, Burra SA • Mitchell Crosby, Narrogin WA • Michael Friend, Wagga Wagga NSW • Charles Impey, Tamworth NSW • Dan Korff, Sidonia Vic • Danielle Krix, Windsor NSW • Sydney Lawrie, Tumby Bay SA • Michael Peden, Goulburn NSW Head of on-farm RD&E at AWI, Dr Jane Littlejohn, said the NMC builds on the previous National Merino Breeding Skills Competition and uses a similar model to those used in the red meat and grains industries. "While AWI has developed valuable educational resources and projects for primary and secondary students, transferring best practice breeding skills and knowledge to future Merino industry participants is vital for our industry," she said. Ben Watts will lead the project; his experience as a Merino breeder and TAFE teacher will be invaluable to this project. "It is great to be part of the launch of the National Merino Challenge," Mr Watts said. "It's an excellent program that encourages school and tertiary students to be interested and involved in the sheep industry. There are so many new developments in sheep breeding that when we combine them with tried and proven techniques, young people see the sheep industry as exciting and interesting. I am looking forward to working with the progressive people that are involved with this project." More information: Teachers, lecturers and trainers are now invited to contact NMC leader Ben Watts (0428 668 706, firstname.lastname@example.org) to register their interest in this year's challenge. By registering, teachers will receive various learning materials and a train-the-trainer workshop will be offered as a refresher course in the lead-up for those interested. FAST FACTS l The National Merino Challenge (NMC) is a new AWI initiative to improve the engagement of young people interested in the Merino industry. l The NMC aims to develop senior secondary and tertiary students' knowledge, skills and networks through a national breeding competition in order to support a successful career in the Merino industry. l The project also involves two-days training for educators, covering a broad overview of course content and materials. The National Merino Challenge Steering Committee will assist and support AWI to plan, develop and deliver the National Merino Challenge through strategic and technical advice and promotion. Committee members pictured are: L-R Dan Korff, Michael Peden, Russell Bush, Michelle Cousins, Sydney Lawrie, Hamish Chandler, Charles Impey and Danielle Krix. Absent from this photo are Michael Friend and Mitchell Crosby. National Merino Challenge