SEVEN young people are vying for the opportunity to improve their knowledge of the sheep and wool industry as part of the prestigious Peter Westblade Scholarship.
Tasmania’s Anna Cotton, “Kelvedan Estate”, Swansea; Joe Walden, Cavan Station, Yass; Harrison Stonnill, “Cocketgedong”, Jerilderie; Mathew Connor, Stephen Connor Shearing Contracting, Taralga; Jane Brien, Bella Lana Merinos, Wellington; Hilary Beech, Holmes and Sackett, Wagga Wagga; and Veronika Hartmeier, Moses and Son, Wagga Wagga, were chosen from a strong group of applicants by a panel of Peter Westblade Scholarship committee members.
Now in its seventh year, the scholarship, in honour of Lockhart sheep producer, the late Peter Westblade, will provide opportunities and in-kind support worth up to $10,000 over a 12-month period.
Last year’s recipients, Rachael Gawne and Harry Mulquiny, have used the scholarship to further their knowledge and improve networks within the industry.
Miss Gawne, 23, has been working with sheep industry consultant Sally Martin at Wagga Wagga since she completed her animal science degree.
She isn’t from a farming background, so the scholarship has allowed her to meet many new contacts in the industry.
“It’s been an amazing year, and without the scholarship I think I would have been at a disadvantage,” Miss Gawne said.
“I’ve attended training seminars, conferences, and went to Western Australia with Craig Wilson classing.
“I got to go to Sheepvention at Hamilton, which is a really good showcase of the industry – it was fantastic.
“I’ve met many people that I wouldn’t have met and I’ve been able to create mentoring partnerships as well.”
Mr Mulquiny, who works in partnership with his father Bernie at “Nerinvale”, Wooroonook, Victoria, used his scholarship to fund travel to properties in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.
He studied Merino operations in varying climates, and from his experience, was able to increase his property’s stocking rate by 300 head.
“My focus was finding productive, profitable enterprises to use as models to help myself and others around home,” Mr Mulquiny said.
The family now runs 1100 Merino ewes, with an 18-micron average and an average fleece weight of seven kilograms.
“It was an eye opener going over to WA and seeing the scale of family farms – they’re sizeable operations.”
The finalists will attend the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge Shearing in Wagga, NSW, on March 1 and 2, with the recipient announced at the Peter Westblade Scholarship announcement and auction dinner.