Charles Sturt University students have dominated the National Merino Challenge (NMC) being crowned the top tertiary team for 2019.
Competing against more than 160 students from across Australia, the four NSW sheep and wool enthusiasts have have been studying hard with sheep and wool experts, and it paid off.
Overall, 14 Charles Sturt students took part in the competition, with the highest four scores taken into consideration in the tertiary challenge.
The four highest scoring students were Patrick Crawley, Karissa De Belle, Kayla Kopp and Mitch Rubie claiming first prize.
Mr Crawley was also named the individual tertiary student champion.
Charles Sturt PhD candidate Ms Kayla Kopp said it was an honour to be part of the winning team.
"This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our knowledge of the sheep industry, talk with other university and school students, and network with people from the industry," Ms Kopp said.
"Winning was a bonus."
The team was trained by Charles Sturt lecturer in animal production and science, and member of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Dr Susan Robertson, and Ms Lexi Cesnick from Moses and Son.
"One of the key benefits of the NMC is that it gives students from all backgrounds and levels of experience the opportunity to learn more about sheep and wool, and to be able to participate in a very supportive environment," Dr Robertson said.
"Those students who involve themselves demonstrate a commitment to learning and enthusiasm for the industry, and Charles Sturt was proud to have 14 students wanting to test themselves this year."
Individual tertiary champion Mr Crawley, a first year vet science student originally from central west NSW, said he jumped at the opportunity to be part of the challenge.
"I'm studying vet science and I wanted to learn about where the industry is going in terms of reproduction, particularly AI," Mr Crawley said.
"I also jumped in for a networking perspective, to try and get some numbers in the industry and go from there.
"The best thing from the challenge, as a whole, is the entire networking side of things and the approachability of the people within the industry.
"It is reassuring to know that there is a demand for younger people in the industry."
Now in it's seventh year, the NMC was held at Sydney Olympic Park at the weekend with students from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia competing.
It aims to provides the next generation with an understanding of the career opportunities within the sheep and wool industries and delivers practical instruction on the basic skills of appraisal using both traditional and modern methods.
Having started with just 60 students, the challenge has grown considerably and since it's inception has educated thousands of students about the basics of the wool industry.
Students are assessed on practical skills, including wool valuing and AWEX typing, ram selection, condition scoring and feed budgeting, but out of the 161 entrants there could only be a handful of winners.
In the secondary section Megan Seis of Calrossy Anglican School, Tamworth, was crowned champion while the champion secondary team was taken out by the Victorian Flinders Christian Community College students Erin Douglas, Cassie Goding, Caitlin Morgan and Kasey Shields.
AWI's general manager of operations Nigel Gosse said throughout the two-day event, students were assessed on their skills across a wide range of areas including breeding objectives and wool harvesting together with the commercial assessment and classing of animals and fleeces.
"While AWI has developed valuable educational resources and projects for secondary and tertiary student, transferring best practice breeding skills and knowledge to future Merino industry participants is an important part of the future of our industry," Mr Gosse said.
"It was great to see the NMC giving young people an understanding of the career opportunities within the sheep and wool industries and deliver basic skills of appraisal using both traditional and modern methods.
"The competition was strong, and it was encouraging to see the energy and enthusiasm of the students as they developed their knowledge and learnt new skills."