A trip to Tasmania, as the NSW finalist in the National Merino Sheep Young Judges Competition held at the Royal Launceston Show earlier this month, has come up trumps for University of New England student and Alfoxton Merino stud Armidale employee Lindsay Brown.
Mr Brown has just completed a double degree with UNE in Agriculture and Business Administration, a tertiary education course he began in 2020. He moved to Armidale from the family wheat and sheep operation near West Wyalong.
Merino sheep have always been a fascination, he said. While his family traded in Merino ewes to breed first-cross ewes, rather than have an established flock, Mr Brown achieved his wool classer's ticket through TAFE NSW at high school in Leeton, and this will be his main role with his new job in Victoria. His next stop will be Elders wool stores near Melbourne, Victoria, where he will use his wool classer's ticket to work on bulk classed lines and prepare them for sale.
Early at UNE, he picked up some casual work through an advert on Facebook with Chris and Cindy Clonan's Alfoxton Merino stud, helping out with the stud's artificial breeding program. This grew into "almost full-time employment" combined with the studies necessary to complete a double degree.
Mr Brown estimated there were about 60 students in his cohort, but only five or six had expressed an interest in following a career in sheep and wool production post-graduation. The remainder seemed interested in careers in agronomy and cropping, he added.
He said almost all of his cohort would have jobs once their studies were complete, and there are plenty of opportunities for young people in the different facets of agriculture.
The pathway to the national title began with a win at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in May in the junior judging competition. Mr Brown said apart from himself, there were representatives from five other states: Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland.
The competitors had to evaluate four Merino ewes and then four rams.
"The sheep had super fine fleeces, so that was well within my repertoire," Mr Brown said. "We also had a choice on whether we would speak on the ewes or the rams."
While super fine wool production is a key focus for Mr Brown, he concedes he has a soft spot for the dual purpose abilities of the Dohne sheep, of which Alfoxton is a registered flock.
Alfoxton co-principal Chris Clonan said: "It's a terrific result, and we are so proud of his achievement. He is enthusiastic about our stud program, and this result is reflective of that.
"Lindsay is unfortunately moving on from us after finishing university this year. We wish him all the best with his new endeavour with Elders," he said.
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