Such was the calibre of the finalists in the prestigious sheep and wool industry’s Peter Westblade scholarship that joint winners have been announced.
Young sheep industry professionals Harrison Mulquiny and Rachael Gawne were chosen from a field of applicants from NSW, 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.
Now entering its sixth year, the scholarship will provide 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.
Open to young people aged 18-30, the scholarship honours the late Peter Westblade, a Lockhart sheep producer passionate about breeding profitable sheep, and a supporter of young people interested in agriculture.
Rachael Gawne, 22, has an Animal Science degree from Charles Sturt University, Wagga, and aspires to empowering producers to make management decisions to benefit flocks and increase returns.
She 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,’’ Rachael said.
“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.
“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 Mulquiny, 21, Wooroonook, Vic, 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’’.
He works on the family farm and helps manage the 500 Merino commercial ewe flock, with a micron average of 19.5 and average fleeceweight 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.’’
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.
An auction of donated goods and services held during the scholarship dinner raised $13,750.