Commitment to Education–2018 Jackaroo Program

Avington has welcomed two new jackaroos to our Jackaroo Education Program, Grace Teate and Sophie Buntine. We recently conducted a ‘Q + A’ with them both to gain an insight into life on the farm for our jackaroos.


Grace Teate

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Tell us about your background

I grew up on a large sheep property near Naracoorte in SA with 4000 cross-bred ewes. There’s a photo of me as a two year old on a wool table playing with wool.

When did you decide you wanted to be a Jackaroo?

After I finished school in 2014 I worked at home on the farm with dad and also at Landmark in Naracoorte for a year. In 2016 I joined ‘Hay inc.’ (a group of enthusiastic Hay District community members who are focused on providing an opportunity for young people to gain new agricultural skills, education and experience: www.hayinc.com.au).
As part of the program I participated in the Jackaroo program, which among other things furthered my fencing and stock handling skills. 

In 2017 I attended Marcus Oldham where I studied farm management. I soon discovered that I didn’t like sitting at a desk and saw the ad for the Avington Jackaroo Position and applied. I was interested in merinos and knew I wanted to work on a farm.

What is life like at Avington?

Pretty cool, friendly, accepting of girls and they look after us really well.

What is your work day like at Avington?

Working together with Sophie on our daily jobs.

What are your career aspirations?

I would like to own my own sheep and breed 1st cross ewes (Merino x Border Leicester). There’s a high demand for them at the moment.


Sophie Buntine

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Tell us about your background

My father was an Australian equestrian who came from a sheep farm in central victoria. He moved to the UK to pursue his equestrian career and met my mother. We lived on a farm in Nottingham with cattle and horses. Three years ago I travelled to Australia to study a Bachelor of Science at Melbourne University, majoring in Agricultural Science. 

When did you decide you wanted to be a Jackaroo?

After completing my degree, I was looking for the next step in the agricultural industry and to get contacts. I decided to get a foot in the door and learn more about Australian farming. I also wanted to get out of the city and back on a farm again.

What is life like at Avington?

Always busy, good fun and something different. I’m always learning as this is my first time working with sheep.

What is your work day like at Avington?

We start at 7:30 and finish at 4:30-6, depending on how long we have worked the day before. We look after the show rams in the morning and afternoon, they need lots of love and scratches! We also handle fencing and other odd jobs.

What are your career aspirations?

I would to work in agriculture on sustainability, pasture management and with sheep. Avington is a great farm for me to experience all of this.

Annual Surveillance Audit

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Avington was proud to be the first wool growing property in Australia to be certified under the international Responsible Wool Standard in 2017.

The certification is for three years but an annual surveillance audit is required. The surveillance audit was carried out in February 2018 by Lexi Sturrock of Control Union on behalf of Textile Exchange. Also present was Stuart Adams, Agriculture Standards Advisor- Textile Exchange, the developers of the RWS.

The goals of the RWS… ‘will provide the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers, ensuring that wool comes from farms with a progressive approach to managing their land, and from sheep that have been treated responsibility.’

 

Pasture Improvement

Extensive soil testing has been carried out this year at Avington to determine how we can improve our pastures in-line with our sustainable farming practises. The tests have shown that our granitic soils have a naturally low pH. To address this we will spread 1800T of lime and over 80T of fertiliser across all of our properties.

Loading of fertilizer onto the spreader truck

Loading of fertilizer onto the spreader truck

The stock pile of lime

The stock pile of lime

Avington’s success at the 2017 Bendigo Show

Avington Merino won several awards for our sheep and wool at this year’s show. Our results were:

Tag 150082: Reserve Champion Ultrafine Poll Ram
Tag 161481: Champion Ultrafine Poll Ewe
Tag 150062: Champion Superfine Poll Ewe, also Reserve Junior Champion Superfine Ewe

A great result with seven broad ribbons to the five sheep taken. All placed in their opening classes.

Highest number of merino entries with a really strong depth of field in the ultrafine & superfine end of the shed.

Shed Extension

Other improvements to infrastructure at Avington include the extension of our existing shearing shed. The extension included the installation of additional wool storage bays which will streamline productivity during our busy shearing period. The shed was also extended to cover our existing sheep yards, enabling us to hold at least a full day’s off-shears inside in case of a severe weather event. The protected yards further demonstrate that our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our sheep is paramount, ensuring their comfort throughout the year.

Murdoch University Sensor Trial at Avington

Murdoch university recently undertook a study using sensor technologies on ewes and lambs.

This technology will potentially offer an accurate means for identification of lambs to dams, resulting in the collection of critical DNA data for breeders. 

The sensors monitored lamb and ewe behaviour to match lambs to their dams.

The study will aim to further develop data collection on lamb and ewe behaviour, changes in activity, isolation pattern suckling/licking behaviours, date of conception, date of birth, lameness, Dystocia, cast ewes, early warning of flies/ill-thrift and intake and grazing patterns.

Lambs at Avington were fitted with non-intrusive collars with sensor monitors. When in commercial production, Electronic tag technology similar to the Electronic Identification Device (EID) which is currently in use, will more than likely replace the trial collars.

Lambs at Avington were fitted with non-intrusive collars with sensor monitors. When in commercial production, Electronic tag technology similar to the Electronic Identification Device (EID) which is currently in use, will more than likely replace the trial collars.

Kyneton Woodlands Project

The Protecting, Linking and Enhancing Priority Remnants in the Kyneton Woodlands Project (the Kyneton Woodlands Project) was funded by the Australian Government. The project received $2.47 million in funding over five years between 2012–2017. Avington Merino was proud to be support the project by protecting significant remnant vegetation by fencing off these areas, collecting seed and replanting seed in conjunction with the local landcare group.

For more information on the Kyneton Woodlands project visit:

Trip to Biella, Italy

Avington Merino Principal, Noel Henderson, recently visited Biella in Italy. Located in the north-west of the country at the foothills of the Alps, Biella is an important wool processing and textile centre, having been the home of Italian wool processing for hundreds of years. Steeped in history, there are many old buildings and mills scattered throughout the surrounding area, one of the mills Noel visited dated back to 1663.

During his visit Noel gained valuable information and feedback on wool processing. He visited a number of combing mills to see raw wool being processed into tops, and went to spinning and weaving mills to watch the tops being converted into high quality cloth.

Noel discussed the demand for Australian wool and any problems they have encountered in Australian wool quality with the mills, and a number of key fashion brands, in an effort to improve wool quality and production at Avington.

The issues reported were consistent including; mulesing, supply, current wool prices, quality of clip preparation, wool strength (which directly relates to high speed processing) and how the Responsible Wool Standard will be accepted by Australian wool growers.

Noel also recognised the high level of commitment to the environment, observing the extensive use of solar panels, water recycling and cogeneration.

The high standard of quality control during processing was also evident, highlighting the level of focus the industry has in Biella, resulting in the producion of beautiful fabrics. In one mill Noel observed 52 different stages of quality checks.

This attention to detail was evident throughout the town. The food and wine Noel shared with his generous local hostswas also a highlight of his trip.

L-R The Piacenza Mill at Biella, circa 1733, The food and wine didn’t disappoint! Some of the sumptuous dishes which Noel sampled, the handmade pasta was the hero.