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

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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.

A spoonful of medicine makes Mary a very happy little lamb

Today’s guest blog is the second in a series the Young Farming Champions are penning for Ausagventures #YouthinAg series

Our first blog featured Dr (in waiting) Steph Fowler who is one of our  three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

Today we bring you update from Dr (in waiting) Danila Marini’s research looking at drugs and sheep and whether it is possible to get sheep to take their own spoonful of medicine

Danila Marini

Danila Marini Photo ABC Rural

Danila thinks sheep are smart enough to self-medicate.

“It’s just like humans. As an individual they can have varying levels of intelligence.”

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Getting ready for the first day of my experiment

My PhD project is about developing a self-medication method for pain relief in sheep, which means I’m trying to teach sheep to take their own medicine. As part of common husbandry practices sheep undergo some painful procedures such as tail-docking and castration and just like us their post operative pain can last several days. Farmers currently have anaesthetics and analgesics that can relieve the pain during the time of the procedure but have yet to overcome the logistics issues to relieve the sheep’s pain  post operatively.

This is where my project comes in! If I can add a pain relief drug to feed and teach sheep to take it when they experience pain, it’ll make the farmer’s job a little easier and keep the sheep happy and healthy

So far I have completed my first experiment. This experiment involved using a lameness model for sheep and administering 3 different drugs as an oral solution. The aim of this experiment was to see if the drugs were effective at reliving the pain associated with the lameness when administered as an oral dose. Sure enough we were able to identify the drug that was most effective and we plan to continue using it throughout the rest of my PhD.

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Introducing my sheep to pellets

This year marks the start of my second year and a big year its turning out to be! So far I have two experiments planned. The first which I have actually just started is in two parts, one is looking at the palatability of feed containing our pain relief drug, that’s testing whether it may have a flavour that sheep don’t like. The second part is a pharmacokinetic study, this involves measuring the concentration of the drug in the sheep’s plasma and will tell us what the body does to the drug and if feed intake affects that. The second experiment, planned for later in the year will test how effective the feed contain the drug is at relieving the pain of castration and tail-docking.

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My new cohort of sheep for my palatability and pharmacokinetic study

A PhD is full of ups and downs and when you work with animals there is always the potential for something to go wrong (what’s that saying “never work with children or animals”). You can also often experience a lot of down and isolating periods (statistics and writing is great for this). During these times you just have to make sure you seek support, ask your supervisors, university and friends for help and of course always make time for yourself!

But doing a PhD isn’t all doom and gloom and constant experiments and writing. Last year I was accepted to attend a PhD course about animal pain in Denmark. It was quite the experience and I got to meet a lot of students with the same passion to improve animal welfare as me as well as see some of the beautiful country. This year I will be going to the ISAE conference in Spain to present the results of my last experiment, I can’t wait for that.

I always find if you ever feel lost about your work, then talk about it. Every time I have to explain my research, what I’m doing and why, it always makes me as excited as the first day I decided to do the project.

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to talk about my project with Lisa Herbert of ABC Rural radio on Bush Telegraph. This came about thanks to Lynne Strong from Art4Agriculture who was interested in my story and asked me if I could write a small piece about myself for the blog. This leads me on to my final point.

Make sure you take every opportunity; you never know who you will meet, where it will take you or what you will learn.

Doing a PhD gives you the potential to do so much and meet a lot of people with the same interests as you. A PhD can be a tough commitment but is worth it and so far for me it’s been an amazing experience!

Read the blog post that caught the eye of Radio National and Bush Telegraph here

Hear Danila on Bush Telegraph here

Meet Peta Bradley whose world of agriculture is taking her to the cutting edge of technology

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Today’s guest blog comes from Peta Bradley whose journey into the world of agriculture began at a very young age, perched in the front of a work ute with her “Wiggles” tape on repeat checking lambing ewes with her mum on a frosty winters morning.

Now she is now studying Animal Science at the University of New England, Armidale

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This is Peta’s story………………….

I was born into the world of farming, along with my younger brother Jack. My parents are second generation farmers owning and managing a mixed enterprise farming business near the small village of Armatree, approximately 45 km north of Gilgandra, in the Central West of NSW. clip_image004

Our farm business consists of two enterprises: sheep and cereal cropping on 3,500 acres. Both my mum and dad studied agriculture at what is now known as Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. Dad was an agronomist so naturally he is the manager of the cropping side of the farm, while mum is a passionate stockwomen. This is where my passion also lies. However both the enterprises and the farm planning is truly, a family run unit.

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Our Family with the 2012 drop flock rams (and Penny the dog)

Growing up I’d spend countless hours checking lambing ewes in winter with mum or learning to drive before my feet could touch the peddles drought feeding sheep or scooting around the woolshed during shearing. From a young age I’d always loved sheep work, or anything to do with stock in general. With this thirst for knowledge and a million questions just bubbling from my lips mum and dad would do their best to answer the thousands of questions that were asked on a daily basis.

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Merino Ewes in for Drenching – December 2013

The sheep enterprise consists of a registered, performance tested Border Leicester Stud that sells stud and flock rams with a breeding base of 350 ewes. All sheep have a full pedigree and are registered with Sheep Genetics Australia. Along with the Border Leicester Stud we also run 1500 commercial Merino ewes that are joined annually to Border Leicester Rams. The ewe portion of the 1st cross progeny are sold to repeat buyers while the wether portion are sold over the hook through the Tooraweenah Prime Lamb Marketing Co-operative.

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Flap, the champion dog, with young flock rams

For my primary education I attended Gulargambone Central, a small school 10km away. Along with my passion for sheep, I relished any opportunity given to play sport whether it is cricket, football or netball. It was swimming however where my greatest sporting passion lay and in 2005 I was given the opportunity to swim at state level and since then I have swum at state level every year since. The desire to improve and work hard at something was an ideal that sport installed in me that has since given me the same drive in all other aspects of my life.

However it wasn’t until high school did my life really turn into a direction where I could see that my future lay in agriculture. My high schooling began and was completed at Gilgandra High School. An hour each way on the bus made for a long day, but I loved being able to come home every day and being involved in farming business. In Year 9 I selected agriculture as an elective subject. This is where I saw my career path begin to lay itself down in front of me. I was involved in every opportunity that I was given from Junior Judging, Sheep Showing, Development Days and Steer Shows.

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Sheep showing with the School (I’m far left in the back row)

The school had a relationship with our Border Leicester stud where we would prepare the sheep at school and show them on behalf of my family’s stud, New Armatree Border Leicesters. This relationship allows the school to house sheep during the early half of the year at the Ag Plot. Working with sheep gives students the confidence to work with stock prior to preparing steers in the latter half of the year. I began the captaincy of the show team in 2010 and continued this role until I completed my HSC last year. It involved organising 3 meetings a week and working with the younger students to develop their animal husbandry practices.

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The 2013 Show Team Ewes

I began Junior Judging at the age of 11, mainly competing at a couple of local shows. When I was 15 however I was old enough to qualify for the state finals held at Sydney Royal Easter Show. My first year I successfully qualified for the meat sheep judging, this was my first major judging competition and I initially found it quiet a daunting task, competing against people 10 years my senior. However I finished in 5th place- but more importantly gained a wealth of experience. In this same year I competed in the sheep handler’s competition, sponsored by a fellow Border Leicester Stud. I finished 1st in this competition.

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1st in the Junior Handlers – Sydney Royal 2011

Following my success in the handler’s competition, I began work for another Border Leicester based in Temora. In this role I was given the opportunity to travel to some of the biggest sheep shows in the country to prepare and show sheep on behalf of the stud including the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney Royal Shows.

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I’m pictured here with the Supreme Prime Lamb Sire at the 2012 Sydney Royal Easter Show with Wattle Farm Border Leicesters Stud Principle Jeff Sutton

With this continued exposure to sheep and the industry I once again competed in the NSW State Junior Judging Finals at Sydney Royal in 2012 in fleece, meat sheep, merino and cattle judging. I walked away as the NSW Reserve Champion Junior Judge in the Merino and Meat Sheep Judging as well as finishing 3rd place in the Fleece Judging. This success continued with me to Bendigo where I was announced as the 16 years and under Australasian Corriedale Judging Champion. I continued to compete in Junior Judging Competitions in the following years with my most recent success being at the 2013 Rabobank National Merino Show where I achieved the following results: 1st in the Merino Sheep, 1st Merino Fleece, Best Oral Presentation and Overall Champion Junior Judge.

In 2013 I was appointed as the youngest member onto the Australian Stud Sheep Breeder’s Association (ASSBA) NSW State Longwool and Short Wool Judging Panels. Since then I have had the opportunity to judge the meat sheep at a number of local shows. This year I also was the Over-judge in the Junior Judging Competition at Armidale Show that drew more than 80 entries. I also had the privilege of helping steward in the Merino section of the show.

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The Merino Section at Armidale Show

Last year I completed my HSC at Gilgandra High School. My passion for agricultural was apparent in my results finishing within the top 99.96% of NSW students in agriculture. I have now entered my first year studying a Bachelor of Animal Science (Livestock Production Major) at the University of New England, Armidale.

When I complete my degree I hope to continue onto further research within the Sheep Industry. My ultimate aim is to research, develop and implement new technology as well as maintain traditional breeding values and techniques to boost the production of Australia’s sheep and wool industries.

The area of arable land worldwide is decreasing, however the population is continuing to expand – the food and fibre needs of this growing population have to be met, Australian agriculture and the next generation of producers and researchers hold the key to boosting production.

To increase my knowledge of sheep and wool production in Australia I have also worked for 2 merino studs preparing and maintaining Housed Show Sheep for one and recording fleece weights at shearing for another. Along with my understanding of ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values) from our own Border Leicester Stud this has allowed me to generate a plethora of background knowledge that I wish to apply into my future career. Our stud is involved in some cutting edge technology in the sheep industry that include DNA blood carding young sires at 6 weeks of age to correlate DNA markers to their ASBVs, sires being used in semen projects at research bases around the country, as well as a number of PhD and masters projects being carried out on our ewe base.

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Arena Testing Border Leicester Ewes – To observe the correlation between behaviour in the arena and there mothering ability

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The lamb on the right is a ram used in the blood carding project and since has been used as a sire at 7 months of age to shorten the generational gap. He is one of the progeny from an Artificial Insemination program carried out last year.

Farming, as we know it is changing, shifting, evolving. Producers and all other partners of the agribusiness sector are required to be flexible and adapt to the ever changing global climate. The passion that the land imprints upon you will leave you longing for the rolling hills or the flat, open, golden plains. We must harness this passion and combine it with the new technologies to prepare ourselves for the promising, productive future of Australian agriculture. I am proud to be part of these young producers and researchers that must look into the future, educate others and implement cutting edge scientific methods in combination with the traditional values upon which the Australian agricultural industry is built to ensure the continued success of Australian agriculture..

Meet Emma Turner who knows every day three times a day you need a farmer

Our guest blog today comes from young wool farmer Emma Turner

‘for many farmers their career is a calling,
simultaneously more than a business and more than a lifestyle’  R L Wilkinson

My name is Emma Turner, I am 18 years old and this is my story………..

Emma Turner

 

I grew up on Stanbridge station, our 100,000 acre Merino sheep station, 100km south of the tiny town of Ivanhoe, in western NSW.

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I feel strongly connected and passionate towards agriculture underpinned by my family connection.

I am a sixth generation wool grower – the fifth in the Ivanhoe area – with my family roots to farming going as far back as 1844 when my English relatives moved to Adelaide and took up farming as a profession.

Agriculture has always been part of my life, with many life lessons being learnt from it.

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Mustering a mob of ewes and lambs at shearing time, enjoying the fresh grass after drought years.

Wool growing has taught me patience and being involved with our family business, Abbotsford Pastoral Co, has helped me learn many practical farm and life skills and lessons.

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Enjoying the mud on the four wheeler after 100mm of rain

It has also inspired my love for the industry and my passion to make a difference in agriculture – all while having fun and enjoying rural life.

I completed my primary years at Clare Public School where I was the only person in my class and the only girl at my school for three years. We never had any more than six students! Going to such a small and remote school taught me to make friends with everyone as sometimes you can’t afford to be choosey! It also taught me to participate in everything and be a team player on sports days and swimming carnivals, as most of the schools we competed against had at least 20 students!

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Our school photos had the best background

Having two younger brothers I was never bored or alone and over the years we invented our own forms of entertainment, from riding dad’s sale wethers around the yards and seeing who could stay on the longest before getting yelled at, to practising tricks on our motorbikes. We learnt from a young age how to ‘doctor’ ourselves, covering our cuts in Band-Aids before mum came at us with the dreaded iodine bottle!

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My brother and I enjoying a ride on our home made ‘speed boat’

Loving animals is really a given when it comes to agriculture, with my best mate being my dog, as well as a pet lamb to look after. Animals have always played a role in my life, and after watching the suffering they can experience in a drought, they have inspired me to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science after my gap year. My dream is to study genetics and the role it could play in breeding a hardier, more drought resistant Merino.

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Enjoying rides in the ute with my best mate,

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and taking my poddy lamb for a walk after the rain

People farm for many different reasons, some for pleasure, some for return on capital, some for social approval, some for financial security, some because of the challenge and some because they can see no other alternative. I believe it is important for the agriculture sector to build relationships with the community to expand knowledge and understanding of the modern day farmer and what motivates him or her. It is important the wider community is able to understand the sacrifices and hardships that Australian farmers make everyday. Farming in Australia is a job and a lifestyle and so much more. It’s also lifestyle that can throw the biggest and hardest challenges, with more often than not no short term solutions. There is no quick fix for a flood or a drought. Farmers need support and targeted and relevant research and development so they can be resilient through these tough times.

My favourite quotation about agricultural is simple,

Every day three times a day you need a farmer

I believe this simple fact is overlooked in today’s modern society. I believe the long term future of the Australian agriculture sector relies on farmers and the community working together. Fresh ideas and innovative solutions are needed to start building these partnerships and I am doing what I have always done and that is putting my hand up to be on the team

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Meet Danila Marini who believe it or not thinks sheep are smart and she is determined to prove it

Today’s guest post comes from Danila Marini one of the new breed of scientists with a talent for sharing her research in a language we all understand and appreciate

Many think I’m mad having gone on to do a PhD, some days I think I am too but thanks to the support from family, friends and my supervisors at CSIRO and UNE, I am so glad I have started this journey. So here’s to a future of research, helping the agricultural sector and helping animals!

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Originally I’m a city kid; I hadn’t gone near anything remotely like a farm until I was 9 when my Dad bought a small property and started a little hobby farm where he had chickens, cattle, sheep and goats. I had always loved animals but being on this little farm increased my love for livestock animals and sparked my interest in agriculture.

Me getting my sheep ready for measurements for the first experiment of my PhD

I decided working in agriculture was my calling, so I applied for Urrbrae Agricultural High school, even if it meant travelling 2 + hours a day just to study. I made use of the school’s farm and applied to study in as many agricultural subjects as I could and as a result I received the Urrbrae Agricultural high school “Majorie Bowes Prize”, which is awarded to the highest achieving female in agriculture, as well receiving the Animal Science certificate for participating in animal related subjects. Throughout the years I had a million ideas of what I could be when I finished high school, a livestock veterinarian, a jillaroo, a stud breeder, a farmer, the list was endless, everything sounded exciting.

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My year 12 Ag class that attended the South East Tour, where we learnt about different agricultural practices in the South East of South Australia

In year ten I went on an excursion to Adelaide University’s Agricultural campus, Roseworthy and to CSIROs Waite campus. I saw some amazing projects on animal nutrition, animal/plant production and animal/plant health. I was completely fascinated and from that point I decided I could do some interesting work in the agricultural field if I became a scientist. It was a hard choice between animal and agricultural science but in the end animals won and I went on to do a Bachelor of Animal Science at Adelaide University.

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My Dad, my Mum and I at my graduation day in 2012 for my first degree a Bachelor of Science (Animal Science)

Like most undergrads I still had no definite idea what I wanted to do when I finished my degree. When it was time to graduate, I thought “why not give research a go?” I mean research was one of the main reasons I decided to go to uni. So with that I went and did honours, for which I was awarded first class. During my honours year I learnt a lot about research, I had a lot of fun and I grew to love sheep.

I had always liked sheep, back on my dad’s hobby farm he would have the occasional lamb that we would have to hand raise, they were always so cute. Then during high school and Uni I had the opportunity to work with sheep more practically learning how to weigh, drench, tag and vaccinate them. We also had a miniature feedlot project in one of the subjects where we learnt the importance of nutrition, I really enjoyed that work. However during my honours year I got to work with sheep as a flock and as an individual, it was during this time that I learnt a lot about sheep behaviour and that in fact sheep can be pretty smart!

As my honours year began to wrap up I knew I wanted work with sheep. Sheep are very important to Australian agriculture, so I wanted to work with sheep but also help the industry. I thought that one way I could achieve my goal is by helping improve animal welfare.

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How can you not love those faces!

I thought that one of the best ways I could help improve animal welfare was through research so I went looking for PhD projects that had an animal welfare focus. Luckily enough I found a project with CSIRO and the University of New England on self-medication in sheep, which was a double whammy for me! There was a catch though, I had to move from little ol’ Adelaide to an even littler Armidale.

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Like farming research sometimes means early starts, late finishes and very long days but I’m not complaining!

The aim of my PhD project is to incorporate pain relief in food, so that sheep and cattle that undergo husbandry procedures that can be painful, such as castration and tail-docking, can eat this food and be relieved of pain. I will also try to train sheep to self-administer the drugs (non-addictive of course) in order to provide pain-relief, this will give us some interesting insight into pain states in animals. I think it will be the most interesting part of my research! In my first year I identified a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (this is what our panadol is) that works at relieving pain in sheep.

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My sheepie minions! Together we shall take over the world*!

(*With great animal welfare practices)

I have just started my second year and I am really enjoying my work, I currently have some interesting experiments planned for this year. They include adding the drugs to food and seeing if it helps to relieve pain in lambs that have been castrated and tail-docked and training sheep to self-medicate. As you can imagine I’m getting pretty excited about my work.

Many think I’m mad having gone on to do a PhD, some days I think I am too but thanks to the support from family, friends and my supervisors at CSIRO and UNE, I am so glad I have started this journey. So here’s to a future of research, helping the agricultural sector and helping animals!

Meet Tom Tourle whose attraction to the big toys in the sky in agriculture found him with his feet firmly on the ground

Today’s guest post comes from Tom Tourle who if he is as good a farmer as he is a story teller agriculture is very lucky indeed he chose this career pathway

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Why I am I doing all of this? Because I love what I do!

And everything I’m doing is taking me to where I need to be. Where that utopia might be, I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it involves me, on our property, surrounded by healthy animals, lots of grass, on a bike and with a big smile on my face, just like when I was a kid.

This is Tom’s story……………………. 

My parents have always said “give me the boy and I’ll show you the man”. They couldn’t have been more right.

My journey in agriculture started the same way as any other kid growing up on the land.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” They’d ask, and the response was always the same- “Just like dad”.

Sure, different ambitions would come and go, (motor cross racer, pilot, bull rider ), but in reality, things don’t change. I’m still that bike riding, animal loving, pliers wielding seven year old I was back then.

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And it isn’t only me:

My family has always been active in the Rural Fire Service. My sister, Kennedy, especially loved it. If dad was out at a bushfire, she would wait until he got home, just so she could go to sleep with dad’s smoke filled jumper. Now what does she do? Community Safety Officer with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

My brother, Sam, had his favourite toy lamb as a kid. He would drag this thing around with him wherever he’d go. As he grew up, that toy lamb became poddy lambs, and so started his love affair with sheep. Some things don’t change. He is now working with us on our property, and is the go to man when it comes to questions about wool or animal selection.

So this is where it started- before we even knew it, we were becoming who we are today.

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Growing up, I knew agriculture was the industry for me, but in what aspect, I still wasn’t sure. We have always run sheep at home, but for some reason I had a love of cattle and horses. Maybe it was the Troy Dann influence or The Man From snowy River, either way, an interest was sparked early.

I left school with aspirations of flying helicopters. That’s all I wanted to do, it was my passion. Any spare moment I had at school, I was studying flight theory (which really didn’t help out the subjects I was meant to be studying).

I soon worked out that school just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn (I love learning!), it was mostly because I felt as though I was spinning my tyres- looking for a bit of traction to get moving!

I stepped out of year 12 and straight into a Business of Farming course, then Low Stress Stock Handling, then TAFE, then KLR Marketing.  I think you get the point. Education opportunities just popped up everywhere and I grabbed them with both hands. This really set the wheels in motion for my love of education and desire to become an educator.

After working at home with mum and dad for 18 months, I still had dreams of flying choppers and working with cattle and horses. Seeing as I couldn’t convince mum and dad that there were huge advantages in owning a helicopter, I decided I would find somewhere I could do these things.

Time to head north!

I left home in February 2011 and headed to “Rosella Plains Station”, North QLD. This was a big step for me. There was so much to learn! I was leaving my friends and comfort zone at home..

What if I didn’t like it? What if it wasn’t like the glossy pages in Outback Magazine? Well, lucky I had nothing to worry about. I had such a warm welcome by the Scholes and Green families at Rosella Plains who took me under their wing and into their homes, teaching me everything I needed to know if I was going to make it as a ringer and stick it out in the north.

I was so appreciative of the level of responsibility they gave me. I think that was the advantage of working on a family owned and managed property- you get to do a bit of everything. I wasn’t just some young ringer expected to work in the stock camp from dawn til dusk, I was given the chance to operate machinery, travel to neighbouring properties to pick up cattle and sit in on business meetings. What an experience! Every day was just learn, learn, learn. There was always something new to learn about, and I loved every minute of it.

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I spent a lot of time during mustering looking up at the chopper, but with no real desire of actually flying it. I was having so much fun on the ground, why would I want to be up there?! This is when I realised where my passion really lies- working with livestock and growing grass. I still wouldn’t mind having a chopper parked in the shed, but I’d much rather be working on the ground. Maybe one day…

After 18 months at Rosella, it was time to come home. I came back to Dubbo in September 2012 and got back into the life as a sheep farmer. The first few months took a bit of readjusting- looking for cows to chase and missing the horse work.

It took a bit to find my feet, but once 2013 came around the ball started rolling again.

I caught up with some of my old TAFE teachers in early 2013, just to touch base and catch up. Suddenly I was enrolled in Certificate III Agriculture, then Cert IV Ag, then Woolclassing, and that was just the beginning..

As much as I have always loved to learn, I’ve also loved to teach. While I was on a bit of a roll with my studies, I decided to also pick up my Certificate IV in Training and Education, meaning I could then teach with organisations such as TAFE.

2013 was such a big year for me, completing 6 qualifications, picking up a job teaching at Western College in Dubbo, starting my own grazing and trading enterprise, while working at home full time.

Not that I did anything special- I just took every opportunity that came my way. These opportunities are everywhere and the more that you take, the more that seem to appear.

2014 is looking just as busy, looking at teaching more, travelling overseas and interstate on scholarships and development programs, while working at home and expanding my own business. Fun times ahead!

Why I am I doing all of this? Because I love what I do!

And everything I’m doing is taking me to where I need to be. Where that utopia might be, I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it involves me, on our property, surrounded by healthy animals, lots of grass, on a bike and with a big smile on my face, just like when I was a kid.

Pat Morgan has red dust running through his veins

Hi, my name is Patrick Morgan, a 20 year old university student/farmer from Colbinabbin, in Northern Victoria. Our first family farm “Wanella” is 8 kms out of town. It is a mixed farming enterprise of cereal and oilseed cropping for grain and fodder production & merino sheep for wool and prime lambs.

Wanella includes the original Morgan family farm of Nerada, where our family settled 5 generations ago. clip_image002

Harvesting in the late 1990’s

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Harvesting in 2013

At this present day there are 3 generations that are farming in our family, my grandfather, my father with  my 5 brothers and me lending a helping hand .

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Marking lambs with the family in 2005

I am currently studying at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga but at any chance I can grasp, I jump straight in my ute to head home; to sow, spray, cut, bale and harvest our crops or to crutch, shear and sell our home grown wool.

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At times we use light planes to spread nitrogen on our crops

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Good soil and moisture and carefully fertilised crops make great hay 

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Its always good to have plenty of hay on hand when pasture is in short supply

Along with a little help from my right hand man Jed (my kelpie pup) in the shearing shed, I am a professional Woolclasser by trade.

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Classing the wool

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Pressing the wool

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Branding the Wool

When the wool comes of the sheep’s back I test it for various characteristics, press it into a bale of over 100kg and then I place my wool classers stamp on the bale to then be sold at an auction. clip_image014

My grandparents, my twin brothers and me with the Elders representative at the Wool Auctions in Lara. The wool on display beside me contains samples of our wool to be auctioned

Jed is 6 months old now and has become the typical ‘man’s best friend’ of mine. Jed will sit on the back of the motorbike, ride in our speed boat and work a very decent day in the sheep yards without hesitation and always wagging that tail of his.

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My dog Jed

Most of our family’s wool and lamb production comes from my grandparent’s property which is just out of Heathcote, Victoria. We are running approximately 3000 head of Merino Ewes and Weathers and Prime Lambs.

I have had roughly 15 students in my year level throughout my primary and secondary schooling, in Rushworth Victoria. Even though these communities that I have grown up in are so small, I find it quite interesting that we are only 2 hours by car to the heart of Melbourne. I have loved growing up in our rural community and I will be forever grateful for the place I will always call home.

At the moment I am concentrating on my completing my Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management degree.  It is a wonderful opportunity through my degree to have access to diverse array of experts in Agriculture/Agribusiness. To say that I am thoroughly enjoying this course and the University here at Charles Sturt would be an understatement, and I can’t wait to put all of it into practice in the near future, as a professional in the field myself.

Ever since I was a young boy I had become fond of Lee Kernaghan and his music. To this day a particular verse still sticks with me, a perfect metaphor for my thoughts on farming, what I love.

“It’s planting seed and praying for rain, its Red dust running through your veins, where there’s a corrugated iron shed and work boots on the back doorstep, it’s when my wheels hit the gravel road and it feels like home, it’s a way of life, it’s the life I live, and its right where I want to be, it’s the way it is.” – Lee Kernaghan.

It shows me that we as farmers, have a great underlying passion for what we do for a living, and if the rest of the farming community is anything like me, they take a great deal of satisfaction of succeeding in this occupation.

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Can you just imagine what it is like harvesting wheat with a backdrop like this

For me a career in agriculture is the ultimate grow

To plant a seed and watch it grow and be harvested to feed many

To nurture a new born lamb and gather its wool to clothe others  

To have the opportunity to share my story and showcase how good OUR agriculture sector is, I believe a career and a goal second to none.