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