The National Merino Challenge (NMC) is a new Australian Wool Innovation initiative to improve the engagement of young people interested in agriculture and the Merino industry.
Targeting late-secondary and tertiary students, the NMC will help develop the knowledge and skills involved with producing Merino wool. Up to 60 students will attend a two-day national event with training sessions, demonstrations and theoretical and practical challenges.
Head of on-farm research and development at Australian Wool Innovation, Dr Jane Littlejohn, said the NMC builds on the previous National 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.”
The NMC developed from a workshop of stud, commercial breeders, teachers, trainers, extension staff, the Sheep CRC and service providers. The meeting developed a strategy to increase the number of young Australians pursuing a career in the Merino industry.
Ben Watts and Anne Ramsay will lead the project. Mr Watts is a Merino breeder and TAFE teacher and Ms Ramsay has been crucial to the success of previous Merino breeding skills competitions.
“It is great to be part of the relaunch of the National Merino Challenge. 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,” Mr Watts said.
The project will be guided by a committee and expressions of interest are now being sought for its members.
To be eligible, interested persons must be active in the Merino industry with skills and experience in one or more of the following:
-Commercial Merino producer
-Wool exporter, broker or agent
-Wool/sheep extension skills
-Merino ram breeder nominated through a state or national stud association.