THE Australian flock size isn't what it used to be.
It's a concern for mixed livestock producer, Anthony Close. Mr Close is a farm manager at Kurra-Wirra, situated in the far west of Victoria at Culla.
Acknowledging the shrinking size of Australia's sheep flock throughout the past 20 years, Mr Close said his focus will be researching the range of factors that have caused this reduction, comparing the industry with those overseas to gain a better understanding of what makes progressive industries grow and prosper.
"In 1992 the national sheep flock was 150 million head, and produced 4.75 million bales of wool. In 2018, the flock is 70 million head, and will produce 2 million bales," he said.
"Cropping, on the other hand, has grown from 12 million hectares planted to 19 million hectares planted.
"Given the impact that this reduction in flock numbers has on both sheep meat and wool production, it's important to understand how we can reverse this downward trend in order to secure the sustainability and relevance of the industry."
Mr Close's research will take him to New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and the United States as he investigates ways the Merino can rise to more prominence within Australian agriculture.
There is plenty of heritage behind Mr Close's research background.
The pastoral enterprise has been owned and operated by the Close family since 1945.
Kurra-Wirra has had Merino sheep since its beginning and cattle for the past 40 years.
The operation currently runs 7000 self-replacing Merino ewes to produce wool, prime lambs and breeding rams.
The Close family also runs a large cattle operation, comprising a commercial Red Angus herd and Red Angus and Senepol stud cattle.
Mr Close completed the personal development aspect to the Nuffield Scholarship which took place across March and April this year.
He'll begin his Merino-focused research in September and October, starting with a trip to New Zealand.
He said he was very much looking forward to digging into the details of how Merino operations are handled in other countries.
"You've got all these ideas in your head about how things will be but once you travel, your views generally change a lot," he said.
Mr Close will present his report at next year's Nuffield Australia Conference.