The calibre of young people coming through the Australian sheep and wool industry has resulted in joint winners of the prestigious Peter Westblade Scholarship for the first time.
Casey Annetts, of Wagga, and Jayden Harris of Mitchell, South Australia, were announced as the winners at the scholarship presentation.
Scholarship co-ordinator Sally Martin said the outstanding calibre of the applicants made it difficult to split them.
Casey and Jayden will receive up to $10,000 each of cash and in-kind contributions during the next 12 months.
Casey, 22, is studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management at Wagga and heard about the scholarship when industry professionals shared a link on social media.
Jayden Harris, 22, is principal of the Brimanna Poll Merino stud, Yeelana, South Australia and sells 60 rams a year at his on-property sale. “I would like to be exposed to a range of cutting edge technologies and practices that farmers and scientists are using to increase the rate of genetic gain,’’ he said.
Now entering its fourth year, the scholarship provides practical skills training, mentoring and the establishment of industry networks.
Open to young people aged 18 to 30, the scholarship honours the late Peter Westblade, a Lockhart sheep producer passionate about breeding profitable sheep, and a supporter of young people interested in agriculture.
The scholarship will also assist finalist Harriet Brickhill, Wagga, with $1000 towards achieving her goals.
She is in her third year of study for a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University.
An auction fundraiser during the presentation dinner raised $26,840 with another $16,000 donated from annual donors.
“The total of $42,840 raised this year shows the commitment for the scholarship, and enables more young people to be supported by industry mentors and experience networking opportunities within the sheep and wool industry,’’ Ms Martin said.
The Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge is Australia’s largest commercial evaluation of Merino genetics, comprising 50 teams of wethers from commercial producers around the nation.
Ms Martin said the range in wool values after this year’s shearing was from $67 down to $37.