RUNNING behind her father in paddocks from an early age Emma Northey was determined to be a good farmer, "just like dad".
As she grew older and worked on the mixed-farming property, Innisfail at Kikoira, with parents, Paul and Jenny, and sisters Nicola and Caitlin, before and after school, Emma's love for wool growing developed to the point where she pestered her father to let her have some sheep of her own from the family's commercial flock of 20.5 micron woolgrowers.
Straight from high school graduation in 2016, she began a career as a stock and station agent trainee in the West Wyalong stock agency under Paul Quade of Quade Moncrieff Livestock and Property and has been making her way through the cattle and sheep sales industry spending many hours drafting and penning in saleyards between servicing clients and office duties.
At the same time, Emma has continued helping dad while not giving up on her passion of running her own flock.
Three years ago her father agreed it was time for Emma to venture into her own Merino flock ownership and during the annual classing of the Innisfail flock, sheep classer Michael Elms selected 100 older ewes which were joined to two Belswick stud sires chosen by Emma for their wool type, quality and carcase size.
"I suppose I just pestered dad for so long, following him around in the paddocks. I feel it was natural I would get involved in farming and Merino sheep breeding and wool growing in particular," she said.
I feel it was natural I would get involved in farming and Merino sheep breeding and wool growing in particular.
These became her nucleus foundation flock from which 59 ewe lambs were produced from the initial joining.
Fifty of these were displayed in Emma's first venture into the 2019 West Wyalong Maiden Merino Ewe Competition in January among five other established flock entries.
The 20 month-old ewes were growing 20.5 micron and their mothers, admittedly old ewes, had recorded a 122 per cent lambing. In 2017 average cut of her ewe flock was eight kilograms with 68pc yield in an August shearing.
Emma says she has a picture in her mind of the perfect Merino for the Kikoira red soil country.
"A long bodied, straight-backed sheep that stands well on her feet," she said.
"She's got a straight backside, big hips that will be productive and can spit a lamb out every year. Something that's going to work well for me and suit our red country here.
"For the wool I picture something bright and soft, and when you open it up, it's nice and crimped. It's got plenty of definition and character, but micron doesn't really worry me.":
Emma said the wool on the Innisfail sheep kept the dust out.
"That's what we breed our sheep for here. We can't breed fine wool here, the red dust gets into everything."
The competition judges liked the display so much they presented Emma an encouragement award.
Trip of a lifetime
On Michael Elmes' nomination, Emma was invited to join the Australian Wool Innovation 2019 Young Woolgrowers 16-day tour of China in February.
Seeing Australian wool being processed from start to finish in China has made her even more passionate about growing "such a great product".
"It has made me even more aware of the factors contributing to wool quality and the effects these have on processing," she said.
"What we can control on-farm like medullated fibres, vegetable matter, over or under wool nourishment and the quality control of your wool clip when classed into its lines."
"It was just an unbelievable experience," she said. "I had never thought much about the processing of wool before this trip.
"You just fill your bales, stick them on a truck, get it auctioned and don't think much more until you visit wool processing mills in China."
What was so amazing to Emma, was how much the Chinese "love" the versatility of Australian Merino wool.
"They want as much of it as they can get, and want it now!" she said.
Visits to Tianyu scouring and wool top manufacturers who produce 80,000 tonnes of clean wool annually.
From her trip Emma Northey said she has faith in the longevity of the nation's wool industry.
"I am so excited to see what the future holds for wool and its rising penetration in the consumer market as a biodegradable and renewable product."
Of the five processing mills she visited the Nanshan Group employing 47,000 of their 150,000 employees in the wool sector, as the most outstanding.