YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS FOLLOWING THE LEAD

Meg_Rice_058.jpgYoung Farming Champion Meg Rice, a UNE Bachelor of Law/Agriculture student was recently named a 2018 RAS Rural Achiever. It continues her list of achievements, which also include being president of the Farming Futures committee at UNE – a legacy generated by Young Farming Champions before her.

Farming Futures is an annual careers fair and dinner at the university, showcasing industries and businesses who are employing agriculture graduates. It was established in 2011 by Young Farming Champion Jo Newton. Sally Strelitz is an Outreach and Engagement Officer at UNE and supports student committees. “Jo identified there were four or five jobs per ag graduate, yet students felt like they had little awareness of where these jobs actually were. Farming Futures seeks to bridge this gap in the sector, “Sally says. “The inaugural careers fair had 11 booths and this year we are looking at about 40 different businesses from around Australia who are coming to exhibit and talk to our students.” Jo showed foresight in the overarching design of Farming Futures which has helped ensure its ongoing sustainability. Things like actively planning for succession, fostering a culture to support this and seeking mentors to guide future iterations of the committee are ideas rarely implemented in volunteer student organizations.

This sustainability has seen several Young Farming Champions take up positions on the committee, the latest being Meg. “Last year Meg was president of RSUS (Rural Science Undergraduate Society) and on the committee of Farming Futures and now she has moved to president of Farming Futures,” Sally says. “Meg is very open-minded. She is happy to take other people’s ideas on board, but she also knows what she wants. She is an inclusive leader. She’s not afraid to work hard and take a risk if she thinks something is a good idea. I see Meg’s career will be one to watch.”

We think Meg’s career is one to watch too

Meet Jo Newton who is stepping up to solve the big problems in agriculture

Today we continue our series for Ausagventures #YouthinAg showcase by featuring Jo Newton one of our three young farming champions completing her PhD

Jo Newton with melissa-henry-and-the-2013-wool-young-farming-champions and 2011 YFC Melissa Henry

Jo Newton (far left) with Wool Young Farming Champions Bessie Blore, Melissa Henry, Adele Offley and Cassie Baile

Jo is one of 10 people in the Art4Agriculuture team who have been listed in the Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 

Jo is one of a team of Australian researchers transforming Wool, meat and the sheep who produce them Jo Newton

Jo Newton with her beloved sheep  – Photo Matt Cawood

Check out what Jo has been up to ……

I’ve always been a problem solver and liked asking lots of questions so I guess it was no great surprise to my family and friends that I decided to embark on a PhD as its essentially 3 years of problem solving and answering (or trying to answer) questions. My family and friends accepted my passion for sheep a long time ago though I often find that people in agriculture are surprised to learn I am from Melbourne with no background in agriculture.

My PhD topic (or big “problem”) that I’m researching is the variable success rates for early reproductive performance in sheep. What do I mean by that?

Traditionally in Australia ewes are first joined to rams when they are 18 months old so they have their first lamb at 2 years of age. If we can successfully breed ewes so they have their first lamb at 1 year of age we are cutting one whole year from the production cycle which has several potential benefits for the Australian wool and sheep industry and farmers. However, one of the current challenges with breeding ewes at younger ages is the big variation in the percentage of ewes that fall pregnant. Last year we had a range from 0% to ~90% of ewes pregnant in 1 year across the different farms I’ve been working with.

For the last 2 years I’ve been working on 2 main aspects of my project. Firstly I’ve been collaborating with a number of sheep studs across Australia to collect data on joining ewes at 7 months of age. Thanks to the cooperation of numerous farmers we have been able to record live weights, condition score and collecting blood samples from young ewes. We then monitor these ewes to see which ewes have lambs. Last year we took measurements on 4000 animals!!! This year I get to start analyzing all this data. However, the drought has impacted on the number of ewes that we had in our study so we are also collecting data for another year.

The other aspect of my work I have been working on is an analysis of some historical data. This is data which has been collected on a 8 research sites around Australia as part of the Sheep CRC Information Nucleus Flock. As my research is centred around genetics a big chunk of my time is spent in front of a computer writing computer programs. I’ve been estimating heritabilities to determine what proportion of the animal’s expression of a particular trait (i.e. whether it has a lamb) is due to it’s genes and what proportion is due to the environment. Estimating genetic and phenotypic correlations between different traits enables us to work out which traits might be linked or “correlated” to one another.

At the moment I’m doing some simulation work. What this means is that I have a virtual flock of 300 ewes sitting on my computer. I’m using my virtual flock to test different breeding program designs. I’m changing things like flock fertility, the age rams & first have lambs and whether animals have genomic information or not. I’m then comparing my different scenarios to work out which ones result in the most genetic progress for important traits. Whilst it would be great to test these things on actual sheep to measure and compare genetic progress would require years and years of waiting whereas I can get results in about a week from my virtual sheep flock! This is all possible thanks to the enormous amounts of assistance, support and encouragement I get from my supervisors Sonja, Daniel & Julius and all the staff at UNE, CSIRO and AGBU.

The next 12 months as I aim to wrap up my PhD are going to be busy and I will probably encounter a few hurdles on my way. However with the support of my peers, family, friends, supervisors and staff I know that I can make it though.

Look out world here come the YFC

 

Bronwyn Roberts

Beef YFC Bronwyn Roberts named QLD Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader

It’s been a big month for our Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions (YFC) who have started going into schools in three states as part of the 2013 Archibull Prize

Three of the team also have some very exciting news to share with you

Just 24 hours ago the best in the business of the Queensland red meat industry where recognised at the State’s premier industry gala awards in Brisbane last night.

The Queensland Red Meat Awards, hosted by peak advocacy group AgForce, celebrate the innovators in the industry, showcasing all aspects from paddock to plate.

The awards highlight excellence from the producer level right through to recognising the retailers and restaurants across the State the serve the best red meat on offer.

How excited were the Art4Agriculture team when Beef YFC Bronwyn Roberts was named Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader

AgForce general president Ian Burnett said the 2013 winners were testament to the industry’s progressive and innovative outlook, providing a benchmark to which all producers and retailers could strive for.

“The professionalism and innovation in this year’s award winners are instrumental in raising the profile of Queensland beef and sheep meat in Australia,” Mr Burnett said.

“The awards recognise every vital aspect of the supply and retail chain, ultimately resulting in a much higher quality product for our end consumer.”

Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader – Sponsored by Rabobank: Bronwyn Roberts

Working side-by-side with her parents as a fifth generation beef farmer, Ms Roberts is passionate about implementing best practices to produce economically, environmentally and socially sustainable beef. She also works as the Grazing Land Management Officer with the Fitzroy Basin Association. Rotational grazing is utilized to promote healthy land, clean waterways, pasture growth, and biodiversity. Ms Roberts also uses modern technology such as iPhone apps to record stock movements, production and veterinary treatments. Beyond the farm gate, Ms Roberts embraces social media to help spread the word about agriculture through Facebook, Twitter, blogging and Instagram. She also actively contributes to policy and education resources by acting as a MLA Target 100 Beef Young Farming Champion. In this capacity, she has represented MLA at events such as the Sydney Festival and the recent Regional Flavours festival in Southbank. She’s written numerous articles which have been featured in various magazines, been a keynote speaker at events such as the prestigious Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program and Australian Beef Industry Foundation awards dinner. Miss Roberts is also an active Art4Agriculture advocate being featured in YouTube videos empowering students and teachers to explore the beef industry.

Just one month earlier Wool YFC Jo Newton was part of a team of 11 young entrepreneurs from the University of New England (UNE) who took out the prestigious Enactus Australia Championships on Friday 5 July. Enactus is a global organisation, which brings student, academic and business leaders together to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

UNE Enactus Champions

Jo Newton (centre left)  with the University of New England (UNE) team who took out the prestigious Enactus Australia Championships on Friday 5 July

Each team in the Enactus competition must develop, manage and report on outreach initiatives that address areas of human need. Teams must approach these projects as sustainable business enterprises, working to maximise returns to targeted beneficiaries.

Jo headed up the team that showcased the Farming Futures project which links the many companies crying out for quality graduates from agricultural courses to the talent they’re after.

“Demand for graduates outstrips supply in the sector by a factor of four to one, yet 30 per cent of recent graduates aren’t employed. Through an agricultural career’s fair and an industry dinner, we’ve showcased the many professions on offer in agriculture and helped match graduates with leading employers,

I feel very privileged to be a part of that group of students striving to make real positive changes in our community. As a team we are tackling real issues in our community, that translate into national issues. To have the opportunity to take these issues to an international stage will be fantastic in generating further awareness for our projects. I have to pinch myself when I think of the fact that in 2 months I will be part of a team representing Australia, competing against 37 other countries in Mexico. I never dreamed agriculture could take me so far” said Jo

 

Jo and the UNE team will now proceed to the World Cup to be held in Cancan, Mexico – 29 September to 2 October 2013.

And this great news from ‘Dr Steph’ Fowler who is off to Turkey to present two papers at the International Conference of Meat Science and Technology (Icons).

Steph Fowler

This is what Steph had to say about the opportunity

As there is so few meat scientists amongst us it is really an exciting (and yet totally scary) prospect to be selected to present two papers at the International Conference of Meat Science and Technology (Icons). Looking at the program of those I am presenting alongside gives me a bizarre feeling because  it’s the same as reading my reference library, there are names I have been continually referencing since I really began in Meat Science nearly four years ago. It hasn’t really sunk in that they are my colleagues and I am in the same league as them now because I still see myself as the little undergrad student I was when I started, using and refuting their ideas as evidence of my own thoughts and data throughout most of my major assignments.

It’s mind boggling and even more so the fact I have been given a travel grant to help me attend the conference means I have been recognised as someone who is seen to be contributing to the meat science field and who would benefit from attending the conference and grad program. It’s a huge jump from writing assignments that go to a professor, get marked and come back to you to contributing to a whole field of knowledge. Of course getting two papers into the conference is just the start, there is so much to do between now and when I go…full papers to write to be published, conference posters to organise, presentations to put together and practice, samples to set to take to Monash when I get back, data to organise to take to our collaborators in Germany after the conference plus organising my own holiday for when I am released in Europe that I  have barely stopped to think about the full significance of my first papers being accepted. For me the real achievement will come when I am on a plane bound for Izmir Turkey and until then I will keep talking about it trying to convince myself that it’s actually real and happening.

Congratulations to Bron, Jo and Steph and all our Young Farming Champions – you were all born superstars

Wool Young Farming Champions announced

A journalist, a PhD student, a budding auctioneer and a qualified wool classer.

The latest crop of talented Art4Agriculture Wool Young Farming Champions (YFC) prove variety is the key to engaging the next generation.

Sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation, these young people are a living proof that there is nothing boring or conventional about the future of their industry.

Former television news journalist, Victorian-born Bessie Blore has been farming in far west NSW with her husband for two years. Approaching agriculture with fresh eyes, she admits to learning on the run.

BessieBloreSheepShute1

Her number one lesson?

“There is really no such thing as a stupid question or action,” she said.
“That’s the only way you can learn about something you know nothing about. Ask, ask, ask. And give a big cheeky grin when you make a mistake, say sorry, and move on.”

“There is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today,” Bessie said.

A thirst for learning and a passion for sheep took city-girl Jo Newton to Armidale in NSW to study agriculture.

Jo Newton

Photo Matt Cawood

Now studying a PHD focusing on the environmental and genetic factors influencing early reproductive performance in sheep, Jo proves that studying agriculture can lead to a world of opportunities and she shares her story at any opportunity.

“As important a job as farming is, there are many different jobs in our sector,” she said. “That’s something many people don’t fully understand.”

“I am proud of the agricultural sector and my small role in it and am happy to share my story with as many of city friends as I can.”

Rounding out this year’s YFC’s are Cassie Baile, a fifth generation sheep farmer from Bendemeer in the New England region of NSW and Adele Offley from Crookwell in NSW.

Twenty-two-year-old, Cassie now lives and works in Sydney, employed by Elders as a wool technical support officer at Yennora Wool Selling centre.

Cassie Baille

Qualified Wool Classer Adele has a lifelong passion for wool stemming from the fascination of watching the sheep being shorn and the wool sorted in the shearing shed growing up on the family farm.

Dr Jane Littlejohn, Head of On-Farm RD&E at Australian Wool Innovation agreed that the wool industry is in good hands.

“AWI is proud of the achievements of the younger generation and believe that their stories will inspire other young people about the wool industry and its opportunities,” she said.

“The industry needs young advocates who are passionate and can relate to students. AWI is delighted to be involved again in the Young Farming Champion program for 2013.”

Young Farming Champions will start visiting the 42 schools participating in the 2013 “Archibull Prize” in coming days.

Team Wool

The 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions caught up with Wool YFC 2011 Melissa Henry at the recent workshop at NSW Farmers

Want to connect with our Wool Young Farming Champions

Bessie Blogs at http://journobessatburragan.blogspot.com.au/

Melissa Blogs at http://baalissa.wordpress.com/

Twitter

Adele @AdeleOffley

Jo @JoNewton89

Bessie @BloreBess

Melissa @baalissa

Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any wool

Todays guest post is by 2011 Young Farming Champion Melissa Henry who is crazy about wool and her flock of sheep and living and working in rural and regional Australia 

This is Melissa’s story

I’m Melissa Henry from Boorowa in South West NSW.

I’m a Young Farming Champion representing the sheep and wool industry. I’m not from a farming background, I grew up in the Hawkesbury District of Western Sydney.

clip_image001

My ram “Mr Wright” – Grand Champion Ram Royal Canberra Show 2013

My first introduction to agriculture was at high school showing sheep and beef cattle and I loved it! Agriculture has opened more doors for me than I ever knew existed. I have been very fortunate to travel and look at the diversity of agriculture both in Australia and overseas. I’ve seen farming systems in Canada (Quebec and Alberta), South Africa and New Zealand. 

I completed a Bachelor of Animal Science (Hons) at the University of Western Sydney (Hawkesbury) and a Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Consulting at the University of New England.

At home I have my own flock of naturally coloured Corriedales which is very much a niche market. I established Quebon Coloured Sheep in 2004 which gave me the opportunity to learn first hand what it takes to be a farmer – even if it is at a small scale.

 

clip_image003

Quebon Coloured Sheep, Boorowa NSW

My fleeces are sold to hand-spinners and textile artists. My wool colours range from light to dark grey, fawn to chocolate. My ram and ewe lambs are sold to other breeders of coloured sheep, and the wether lambs are sold into the meat market.

Melissa Henry

I love my sheep!

I show my sheep as well, which is a great way of benchmarking the flock and to meet other breeders.  I was very excited to recently win the Grand Champion Ram in the Black and Coloured Sheep section at Canberra Royal Show . 

What I have learnt from having my own flock is:

  • You don’t need to own land to own livestock
  • There are so many people out there who are willing to help you learn – joining a breed or show association is a great starting point
  • No matter what size your flock is – the management requirements are the same

I wear another hat and that is Catchment Officer for the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority. My role is to deliver natural resource management projects, such as revegetation, waterway protection and farm planning to farmer and rural landholders in the Boorowa and Upper Lachlan region. I also work with community groups such as Landcare and the local fishing club to run local events and field days. The most rewarding part of the job is to work with farmers to achieve their production and sustainability goals by helping them along the way with matched federal and state funding. This funding assists with on-farm works such as fencing and tree planting as well as formal and in-formal training opportunities.

clip_image005

Best part of the job – Boorowa NSW

As a Young Farming Champion going into Sydney schools for the Archibull Prize and talking with others in the city community, a common question I am asked is “what is it like to like in a country town?”

st-michaels

Melissa with students from St Michael’s Catholic School in Baulkham Hills

I have found there are a lot of negative misconceptions in the city about what life in a rural community is like.

I love the open spaces, the quiet, the birds, seeing wildlife almost daily, recognising people when you walk down the street, watching the weather fronts as they move across the landscape.

I admire the values of country people: genuine, friendly, open, family focussed, dedicated, innovative, passionate about what they do and their communities.

I am inspired by the community spirit, particularly in times of extreme weather events such as floods and fire. Individuals pull together at the drop of a hat to help others in need, from moving stock to making sure that there is food in the fridge.

This year I am again joining the 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions and visiting  schools participating in the Archibull Prize

Melissa Henry and the 2013 Wool Young Farming Champions

Jo Newton, Bessie Blore, Melissa Henry, Adele Offley and Cassie Baile 

This year I am excited to have the opportunity to visit rural schools in both my hometown of Boorowa as well as Junee. You can visit the Boorowa Central School blog here

Junee High School

Meeting with the Junee High Art4Agriculture Archibull team – what a fantastic group that are so keen to share the positive story of sheep and wool.

Our Australian sheep and wool producers hold a special place in my heart. They care for some of our most diverse farming landscapes and our scarce natural resources. They also underpin our wonderful rural communities like Boorowa. It is an honour to be able to utilize my project management and communication skills to support sustainability within rural businesses and ensure our sheep and wool producers have a profitable future.

 

clip_image007

Melissa and her oldest ewe ‘Baabra’

I am also very grateful for the opportunity to live in a location where I can fulfil my passion – owning a small sheep stud. I am also grateful for the lifestyle that I am now living. I have previously blogged about why I love Life in a country town here

And this winter when you are putting your scarf on, think of me and my girls.

Melissa’s website is www.QuebonColouredSheep.com

You can follow Melissa @baalissa on Twitter.