Young guns inspire sheep industry with Hour of Power


Sally Martin, left, MerinoLink, with Hour of Power participants at the MerinoLink Conference, from left, Will MacSmith, Elise Bowen, Heather Earney, Dione Howard, Emma Turner, Forough Ataollahi, Rachel Gawne, Kate McCarthy, Octavia Kelly and MerinoLink chairman Richard Keniry.

The sheep and wool industry’s young guns were firmly in the spotlight at the MerinoLink annual conference last week, with the innovative “Hour of Power”.

The “Hour of Power’’ was a fast-paced, informative session presented by nine researchers, scholars and innovators, aged 18 to 30 years, from across Australia.

The MerinoLink conference was held on June 20 at the Mercure Hotel, Goulburn, drawing 180 delegates from as far as Western Australia.

MerinoLink chief executive officer Sally Martin said the inaugural Hour of Power provided university students and graduates with the opportunity to present their research projects and findings directly to industry members.

Ms Martin said the initiative was well received by an audience aged from 15 to 75 years.

“We received comments on how the Hour of Power was most inspiring and encouraging to see these young people coming through,’’ she said.

“These young speakers were hot, sharp and to the point, and made the most of their networking opportunities.

“It was a great opportunity for them to present their work and ideas to an industry audience.

“We hope to make the Hour of Power a core component of the conference in future.

“The average age of our attendees was 44 and this has been consistent year on year.

“The younger demographic appreciate the networking opportunities with industry leaders the MerinoLink conference provides them.’’

Ms Martin said eight out of the nine young speakers were women, with all being tech savy and ooking to help and work in the sheep industry.

The Hour of Power participants were Kate McCarthy, Charles Sturt University, Octavia Kelly, University of Adelaide, Emma Turner, University of New England, Elise Bowen, Murdoch University, Dione Howard, Charles Sturt University, Forough Ataollahi, Charles Sturt University, Heather Earney, Charles Sturt University, Rachael Gawne, 2017 Peter Westblade Scholar, and Will MacSmith, Corroboree Merinos, Borenore, NSW.

Their topics ranged from accelerating genetic gain to the internal pelvimetry in Merino ewes.

Emma Turner grew up on a sheep station at Ivanhoe, in western NSW, and is undertaking a study on six monthly versus annual shearing in low rainfall pastoral regions as part of her rural science degree.

The trial involves 700 Merino ewes with data to be collected on body weight, condition score, lambing percentage and wool quality.

Ms Turner is an Art4Agriculture advocate and encourages all young people to “fall in love with the industry’’.

She told the audience the positive lamb and wool markets made for exciting times.

Rachael Gawne, 23, helped co-ordinate the Hour of Power and was pleased to see more than 27 per cent of the conference delegates aged under 30.

Miss Gawne said this allowed the young people to bounce ideas of each other and pick up advice from their mentors.

The conference concluded with a field day at Cavan Station (Ravenswood), Yass, on June 21, with the 2017-drop progeny from the MerinoLink Sire Evaluation Project on display.

The field day was attended by around 100 growers and service providers heard an overview of the sire evaluation results from Sally Martin.

Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association executive officer Ben Swain outlined a project involving a range of historic sires widely used 15 to 20 years ago.

“This has strengthened linkages to older data and demonstrated how far the industry has progressed genetically,’’ Ms Martin said.

Plans are underway for the 2019 conference with the location to be confirmed.