Joint winners in Peter Westblade scholarship

Peter Westblade Scholarship chairman Craig Wilson with 2018 recipients Joe Walden, Yass, and Anna Cotton, Tasmania, with 2017 winners Harry Mulquiny and Rachael Gawne.

March 2, 2018

Such was the calibre of the finalists in the prestigious sheep and wool industry’s Peter Westblade scholarship that joint winners have been announced.

Young sheep industry professionals Anna Cotton and Joe Walden were chosen from a field of applicants from NSW and Tasmania by a panel of industry judges.

The winners were announced at the Peter Westblade Scholarship and auction dinner at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club on March 1.

The other five finalists were Harrison Stonnill, of Jerilderie, Matthew Connor, Taralga, Jane Brien, Wellington, Hilary Beech and Veronika Hartmeier, both of Wagga Wagga.

Now entering its seventh year, the scholarship will provide opportunities and in-kind support worth up to $10,000 over a 12-month period.

The winners will benefit from practical skills training, mentoring and the establishment of industry networks.

Open to young people, 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.

Anna Cotton, 26, works on the family farm, Kelvedan Estate, at Swansea, Tasmania, and aims to use the 12 months scholarship to educate herself further through learning from a range of wool enterprises and attending industry events.

She studied a Bachelor of Business (Farm Management) at Marcus Oldham College and now works as assistant manager in the family enterprise.

Set in a 650mm rainfall zone, the property runs a flock of 7000 superfine Merino sheep, averaging 16 micron.

“The ewes are run on improved pastures while the wethers are grazed on native grasses up until they are about five years old,’’ Miss Cotton said.

Anna was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by the family’s wool representative Andrew Calvert during shearing last October, and admitted to being “speechless’’ at her win.

“I’m looking forward to the next 12 months of amazing opportunities travelling the nation and being mentored by industry leaders,’’ she said.

Joe Walden, 23, works at Cavan Station, home of Bogo Merinos, Yass, and is particularly interested in the use of technology to capture data for analysis.

Originally from Braidwood, Joe completed a Certificate IV in Agriculture and wool handling at Tocal Agricultural College.

Joe was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by Bogo manager Malcolm Peake and Matt Crozier.

“I love working with the stud sheep, helping with the classing, fleece weighing and visual scoring,’’ he said.

“The scholarship will provide an opportunity to drive my career in the Merino industry, make new connections and gain experience.

“I was over the moon when I heard and I can’t wait for the whole year to start, including the annual MerinoLink conference at Goulburn.’’

Scholarship treasurer Sally Martin said the committee faced a difficult decision in deciding the 2018 recipients.

“The applicants were all outstanding as a whole,’’ Ms Martin said.

“If we can encourage more young men and women of this calibre into the industry, it will certainly improve the outlook going forward.’’

An auction of donated goods and services held during the scholarship dinner raised $25,000, together with annual donations bringing the total to $31,000 raised.