If daycare consists of riding shotgun with Dad in the tractor when sowing and harvesting; sleeping in the tender wool bin during shearing time then this has been the best start to my rural career. Hi I’m Deanna Johnston and I’m a rookie farmer.
I had already started shearing, doing the long-blow on our Coolalee rams before I was going to primary school. My Dad worked as a shearing contractor before settling back down to the farm. Dad had always had an interest in sheep, especially Merinos and he began to get more serious about the sheep enterprise on the farm in the year 2000. We turned to the SRS strain of Merinos and started breeding dual purpose merinos. After the recent big wet we currently have 2000 breeding ewes with 500 with lambs at foot.
The next step to continue my agriculture career pathway was Yanco Agricultural High School. Right from year seven I was part of the sheep showstock team which led to an introduction to the McCaughey White Suffolk stud where we started to implement Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer into the breeding program.
I completed my Certificate IV in Woolclassing and Certificate II in Shearing by the age of 16 Since then, shearing competitions and wool handling competitions have become my weekend hobby. In March this year I came out in fourth position in the State Final Fleece judging competition in Sydney.
More recently I competed at Culcairn Shearing and Woolhandling competition where I was awarded the Phillip Memorial Trophy in recognition of my shearing expertise.
These competitions help refine skills and emphasise the importance of the smaller details taught in the TAFE Certificates. You also meet other young people who share your passion for the wool and sheep industry.
In 2014 I was runner up in the National Young Guns competition at LambEX in Adelaide which was attended by over 1000 people. This competition consisted of writing an essay on the topic: “attracting young people into the prime lamb industry “and creating a poster to go with it as well as giving a speech on the topic. The competition is judged on the essay, poster, speech and the answers to the questions posed by the judges. This was an incredible experience for me. I met many industry leaders, producers, overseas producers and professors who had the same passion: the future of agriculture not only in Australia but in the world.
2016 was also an exciting year for me. My school team won the Champion Secondary School at the 2016 Australian Wool Innovation National Merino Challenge in Sydney and I was third overall in the Secondary school division.
The competition attracted over 140 participants from WA, SA, VIC and NSW. Students competed in six activities relevant to Merino Sheep production, including visual scoring of sheep, condition scoring, use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values in ram and ewe selection, wool typing and valuing and feed budgeting. We also attended the Industry Dinner, where we networked with Wool Industry Professionals, university students and other secondary students.
Australian Wool Innovation manager of woolgrower extension and adoption Emily King said the NMC had grown rapidly since its inception because it met the demands of a new generation.
“There is a strong wave of young people coming through who are increasingly enthusiastic about the wool industry. These are the young minds that will take the industry forward with new ideas and new leadership. It’s exciting to see and great to be involved.”
With the end of my HSC year nearing I have been fortunate enough to have to have met some amazing industry professionals including Dr. Jim Watt, Errol Brumpton (OAM) and Charlie Massey (PhD). When I finish school my ambitions is to have a gap year and work in shearing sheds or on a Merino sheep property and then study a double degree in Agriculture and Business at the University of New England in Armidale with a long term view to come back on the farm and take over our sheep enterprise (I haven’t told Dad yet I might tell him about this a bit later).
Daycare gave me a great passion for the wool industry and a dream to be part of it. I am a dedicated to promoting the sheep and wool industry in the community and as an exciting career. Young people are the future of a successful wool industry through the whole chain from the sheep’s back to yours. The future is exciting and I am lucky I will be a part of it along with many other young and enthusiastic people.