Sheep, wool and community dedication earns Jodi coveted medal

Winton wool grower Jodi Axford has been recognized for her contribution to the sheep and wool industry. Image courtesy Axford family

Winton wool grower and classer Jodi Axford has received the prestigious Dr Jim Watts Memorial Medal for her skill at marketing sheep, meat and wool in a challenging environment, and commitment to bettering her community.

Presented by SRS® Genetics, the Medal was established in 2023 in recognition of the contribution Dr Jim Watts made to SRS® (Soft Rolling Skins) sheep breeding and genetics around Australia and internationally.

SRS® Genetics chairman Norm Smith said the medal acknowledged Jim’s legacy and recognised the continuation of his work with the nominees demonstrating a substantial contribution to SRS® breeding and genetics, passion, drive, integrity, and ability to teach others.

“Working in a marginal environment of western Queensland, Mrs Axford has been instrumental in driving the goals and aspirations of Dr Watts and SRS® Genetics in commercial flocks for over two decades,” Mr Smith said.

“Dr Watts inspired Jodi in the early 2000s to seek the SRS® vision, knowledge and understanding.”

Jodi and her husband Shane Axford operate a commercial sheep breeding and trading enterprise on the 11,900ha Goolma Station at Winton.

The 2023 Dr Jim Watts Memorial Medal winner Vicki Murphy said Jodi’s passion and dedication inspired sheep producers in her area, and other Merino breeders to utilise SRS® breeding principles to lift productivity.

“Jodi has a wealth of knowledge from operating the wool selling business in Winton, a shearing contracting business in central western Queensland, running the wool section at the local show and is also a qualified wool classer,” Mrs Murphy said.

“Jodi and Shane have continued to pursue his goals and breeding techniques in their commercial flock whilst showing other wool growers the way.”

Jodi regularly steps up to help within her community, acting in the past as the chief steward in the wool section at the Winton show.

The couple has hosted shearing, wool handling, and Bred Well Fed Well workshops at Goolma Station.

They were thrilled when Dr Watts began classing their flock in 2012 and considered him to be generous with his knowledge and time.

Originally from Geelong, Jodi came to love sheep while working in shearing sheds in Queensland in the 1990s and became a qualified wool classer.

“Shane and I bought a starter block and six different mobs of ewes, including a flock in transition to the SRS® principles,” she said.

They were able to cease mulesing in 2009, and now join between 3000 and 4000 ewes annually with an aim to build to a “sweet spot” of 10,000 sheep.

Located in a 300mm rainfall zone, the flock grazes native pastures with the back-up of irrigated hay production for drier seasons.

“For us, SRS® gave us a science backed blueprint to follow to achieve an easy-care Merino – we realised in our marginal country selection for positive fat and eye muscle was linked to survivability and retaining more lambs at weaning,” Jodi said.

“I always say judge us by our actions. If people are interested, they can come and ask, and we will happily share the knowledge. With young people we are always happy to encourage them into the sheep industry and pass on our skills.

“The SRS® sheep are a pleasure to manage and run – we don’t have to worry about mulesing and there is rarely any flystrike, they are fertile and good mothers, are plain bodied, have a soft rolling skin and an open breach.”

The flock’s adult ewe average micron is 19.5 with a 4.8kg average fleece weight and lambs marked at 99 per cent, including the maidens, to ewes joined.

“The non-mulesed status certainly adds value and the SRS® wools present well when marketing. I am happy with the style, crimp and comfort factor and I understand what type of skins are needed to achieve that sort of wool,” Jodi said.

“When it comes to selection for fat and eye muscle, we know our weaner wethers will be a good weight, shape and dressing percentage for the buyer or processor.”