Gilgandra farmer Angus Beveridge has helped coordinate the delivery of almost 400 Merino wethers to schools across the state as part of a hands-on learning project for high school students.
The wethers are now the adoptees of Year 9 & 10 agriculture students at more than 60 different schools who have joined in on the 2022 NSW School Merino Wether Challenge.
Run by the Dubbo National Ram Sale Committee, the school challenge is an initiative of the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association that started a decade ago.
The students and their agriculture teachers will take care of the sheep until August, where they will be judged on their commercial value at the Rabobank National Merino Sheep Show & Sale in Dubbo.
Angus said the schools collected their six wethers at three drop-off points in March at Narromine, Armidale and Wagga Wagga.
“I delivered some of the sheep myself, but there were plenty of people involved,” Angus says. “Schools in Tenterfield picked them up on behalf of schools in Bonalbo, Kyogle, Murwillumbah and Lismore as they were all impacted by flooding.
“We also have schools from the south coast this year,” he says. “You normally don’t see to many Merinos on the coast, but it’s a great education program for all ag students. There are also two schools from southwest Sydney involved this year.”
Angus says it’s great to get the ag teachers so involved – guiding the students and using the challenge as a practical education tool.
“They can link studies with hands-on experience in animal health, nutrition and husbandry practices and how best to care for their animals in different environments. A lot of the schools really get into it,” he says.
The 378 Merino wethers were purchased by the Dubbo National Ram Sale Committee from the historic Egelabra Merino stud at Warren, managed by NSW Farmers member Cam Munro.
“In the end, the profits from the sales of meat and wool are distributed to the schools based on their performance,” Angus says.
Angus will also be delivering workshops in central locations in Term 2 as part of the challenge, with training assistance from Ben Watts at Bralca.
“The workshops provide the opportunity to further explore the importance of good nutrition and animal welfare and what happens in the supply chain after the wool or the sheep leave the farm,” Angus says, adding that the challenge is one of the biggest of its kind in Australia.
“The main focus is to encourage young people to think about a future in the sheep industry, whether it be farming or shearing or a career in wool and sheep meat marketing or research,” Angus says. “There are plenty of opportunities in our industry right now. Even if we just get a small percentage to follow through on an agricultural career, the challenge has worked.”
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