Teen giving hope to Delungra Merino operation

Delungra's Luke Croft showing a keen interest in wool industry

Life & Style
Delungra's Luke Croft is showing a keen interest in the Merino wool industry and his family and community are helping him achieve his goals.

Delungra's Luke Croft is showing a keen interest in the Merino wool industry and his family and community are helping him achieve his goals.

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Surviving the drought is just as important for the next generation.

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Delungra's Mark and Yvonne Croft are battling one of the toughest dry spells since 1964 but the passion of their 14-year-old son Luke to chase a future in the wool industry is giving them hope to retain their flock.

The proud parents to both Luke and Sara own 550 hectares across the properties, Nindethana and Petrolia, and are currently running 800 Merino ewes averaging 17.5 micron and cutting 3.8 to 4 kilograms.

It's well back on their usual 2000 sheep carrying capacity after selling off all their wethers, a decision made after receiving not much more than 100 millimetres of rain this year.

While the price of feeding sheep every day isn't cheap, the keen interest and support of their young son is making it worthwhile.

"(Growing up on the land) it gives them life experience and direction," Ms Croft said.

"They grow up quicker and they are more mature."

A few years ago, when he was 10 or 11, Luke picked out some ewes of his own and gradually built up a flock of 30 head.

Some of Luke's winning fleece ribbons.

Some of Luke's winning fleece ribbons.

During their April shearing last year, Luke was impressed with the quality of his fleeces and decided to enter them in the Warialda and Bingara shows.

He entered another six at Warialda this year and was invited by steward Hugh Coulton to attend the private judging and learn some pointers.

Showing is in Luke's blood.

His great great grandfather, William Limberg, was awarded champion Merino ram at the sale show in 1935 and every generation since then has either competed in the fleece or live sheep judging.

Luke Croft with some of his fleeces.

Luke Croft with some of his fleeces.

Last year Luke learnt to crutch and is progressing into shearing with the hopes of attending a shearing school with Macintyre High next year.

Luke is gaining just as much in the paddock and helps out on the property every chance he can, giving his father some reprieve on the weekends from the daily duties.

"I've always liked the sheep," Luke said.

"I go out and feed the sheep and muster them up, I pump water."

His love for the wool industry started from a young age, according to his parents.

"Right from when he was young he has always wanted to be out the door with Mark," Ms Croft said.

"He was never a baby, he walked at nine months and as soon as he could walk he would follow Mark.

"He would come up to the shearing shed, even when he was just a toddler or a young fella, he would just want to watch."

The Croft family have traditionally followed a two shearing schedule, one in October and the other in April.

Mark, Luke and Sara Croft with some of their past and present show ribbons.

Mark, Luke and Sara Croft with some of their past and present show ribbons.

But Mr Croft said they may need to adapt to the season and with Luke's assistance could return to one shearing.

"I started two shearings when I used to shear because I didn't want so many in one hit," he said.

"I was only a slow shearer so that was just to break it up a little bit but the way the dry weather is and the numbers we have got, we are thinking of bringing it all back into one again."

The Croft's operation is very family orientated. Mark's mother, Patricia Croft who is now 91, was still working in the shearing shed into her 80s.

But Luke's love for the land hadn't just come from his family. Not only did the Warialda Show stewards invite him to take the day off school and attend the private judging, even the stud they buy their rams from have taken the initiative to show him around their flocks.

"It's so good how the people are so keen to see a younger person coming into the wool industry," Mr Croft said.

"We battle through the tough times, when the wool prices fell we kept our flocks."

"It's about encouraging the next generation through, keeping their interest up in this tough time," Ms Croft added.

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