A UNIVERSITY graduate who thinks Merinos are great and a young wool grower exploring new technology to improve production are joint winners of the 2017 Peter Westblade Scholarship.
Young sheep industry professionals Harrison Mulquiny and Rachael Gawne were chosen from a field of applicants from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland by a panel of industry judges.
The winners were announced at the Peter Westblade Scholarship and auction dinner at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club on April 6.
The other four finalists were Emma McCrabb, of Hay, Sally Smyth, of Broken Hill, Joe Walden of Yass, and Jodi Davis, Wagga.
Scholarship chairman Craig Wilson said the committee faced a difficult decision in deciding the 2017 recipients.
“The applicants were all outstanding as a whole,’’ Mr Wilson said.
Such was the calibre of the finalists in the prestigious sheep and wool industry’s Peter Westblade scholarship that joint winners have been announced.
Mr Wilson said the scholarship was looking for young people who were motivated and keen to learn.
“We tend to get the people who are looking for opportunity and are prepared to open their horizons and learn.
“Sometimes the people who are thirsty for knowledge are not from a traditional background.”
He said the scholarship wanted young people who have an inner motivation and drive.
“They are the types that we are after because we just feel that they are the ones who will utilise the scholarship.”
Rachael wants to work with Merinos
Rachael Gawne, 22, has an Animal Science degree from Charles Sturt University, Wagga, and works part-time with Temora wool broking firm, Moses and Son, and with sheep industry consultant Sally Martin.
“I have been helping with the research projects, and that can range from drenching to working in the shearing shed.
“I do intend to apply for an internship in the future and enjoy working with Marty Moses and Sally Martin – they are so full of knowledge and eager to help young people,” Rachael said.
She said all of her family were in farming and her passion was agriculture, especially Merinos. She believes agriculture needed to be promoted more to those outside the industry.
“I’d like to work with wool – I’d like to work with Merinos.
“I just think they are really great sheep; why not have a sheep that do both, (meat and wool)?
Rachael aspires to empowering producers to make management decisions to benefit flocks and increase returns.
“I am not off a farm but have always had a love for agriculture and when I discovered the sheep industry, that was for me.’’
Rachael said the scholarship would enable her to “soak up’’ information on the sheep and wool industry.
Harrison sees potential in new technology
Harrison Mulquiny, 21, from Wooroonook in Victoria, is interested in how different Merino bloodlines perform in varying environmental conditions.
Mr Mulquiny was surprised to be announced as a joint winner considering “the good class of kids coming through”, but aimed to expand his knowledge through the scholarship.
He works on the family farm and helps manage the 500 ewe Woodpark Poll-blood commercial Merino flock, with a micron average of 19.5 and average fleece weight of 5.5kg.
“This will give me the opportunity to travel and network with industry members, and investigate new technology on pedigree tracking and genetics,” Mr Mulquiny said.
“I like to get the best out of our sheep and am always striving for a better animal.
“I aim to breed productive, easy care Merinos with a high fleece weight and lower micron.
“That’s the way the whole industry is moving at the moment.”
The scholarship provides opportunities and in-kind support worth up to $10,000 over a 12-month period.
The winners will benefit from practical skills training, mentoring and the establishment of industry networks. The scholarship is open to young people aged 18-30 and honours the late Peter Westblade, a Lockhart sheep producer passionate about breeding profitable sheep, and a supporter of young people interested in agriculture.
An auction of donated goods and services held during the scholarship dinner raised $13,750.