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60 students participate in National Merino Challenge
Aug '13
More than 60 students from 10 schools, colleges, universities and TAFEs from across Australia have met for the inaugural National Merino Challenge (NMC) in Dubbo, NSW at the weekend.

An Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) initiative, the NMC involves presentations and demonstrations from industry professionals to allow young people to develop their industry knowledge, skills and networks. Students participated in seven 'mini-challenges' across two days, testing their knowledge of Merino fleece, production and breeding and selection.

The mini challenges were:

1. AWEX Typing
2. Wool Valuing
3. Visual Score Assessment
4. Condition Scoring
5. Calculate Ewe Nutrition & Feed Budget
6. Ewe Selection
7. Ram Selection

Techniques from several well-known industry initiatives, such as MerinoSelect, Lifetime Ewe Management, Bredwell Fedwell and Visual Sheep Scores, were used throughout the NMC, giving students a realistic and practical insight into the tools available to growers to make more informed decisions.

Tom Tourle, from Dubbo's TAFE Western Institute, was one of many students who enjoyed the weekend of learning.

"It has been a great weekend, we've learnt so much about Merinos and wool which has been very valuable. Before this event I was interested in a career in the wool and sheep industry, and the NMC has convinced me of it." 

Competition was fierce across both the secondary and tertiary divisions, with Samuel Barnes from Yanco Agricultural High School winning the secondary school division and Nicola Turner from University of New England taking out the tertiary division.

A highlight of the program was the National Merino Challenge Industry Dinner, held on Saturday night at Macdonald & Co Woolbrokers and attended by more than 130 people. Adding to the atmosphere of holding a Merino industry dinner in a wool store, there was excitement in the air as the participants had the chance to meet woolgrowers, woolbrokers and researchers.

AWI would like to thank the 2013 NMC Sponsors - TAFE Western, Macdonald & Co Woolbrokers, Avington Farm, Future Farmers Network, Advanced Farm Systems, Haddon Rig and Australian Wool Network - for making this event possible, as well as the dedicated volunteers who donated their sheep, time and expertise to the 2013 NMC.

Australian Wool Innovation Limited

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