Four weeks ago yesterday, my father John "Sam" Williams passed away in his sleep.
He was 87 years old.
With him, he took a massive amount of knowledge and unwavering passion for the Merino wool industry.
But what he did leave was a legacy, not to mention a huge pair of shoes to fill.
I'd like to read you a quote by Peter Strople - "Legacy is not leaving something for people. It's leaving something in people."
Family legacy is not just about what has been created, but about the story that we are a part of and share.
In truth, we are always part of a bigger narrative.
So excuse me as what I am about to say pays tribute to a larger than life man, and I know today is all about women, but I am here because I am his daughter and our stories are never just about ourselves.
There have always been events, actions and people who intersect with our story.
Our challenge is to see the larger narrative, and recognise how others have shaped us, and in my case, it was my father.
I don't expect I will fill those shoes he left, and I also don't consider myself to be following in my father's footsteps.
Rather I have been given the chance to pave my own path in the Merino wool industry as well as attempt to make a difference, no matter how big or small while I walk that path placed before me.
My name is Kristen Frost, I am 46 years young, a fifth generation woolgrower and first generation national sheep and wool writer.
I have been with ACM and before that Rural Press/Fairfax since 2005, working my way from a small town managing editor at the Crookwell Gazette to The Land's livestock writer, then livestock editor to finally land my dream job of national sheep and wool writer even after being knocked back at my first attempt at the position.
Remember - never give up.
I have four amazing children - Sam, Jack, Sadie, and Grace and I am married to a man who shares my passion and drive to succeed in the path we have landed on.
I am not going to pretend I can emulate what my father achieved, but I couldn't stand not giving it a red hot crack.
My dad's passion and dedication in pursuing his ambition to breed the perfect Merino at the family property Thalaba, Laggan, was legendary.
And although his success during the 1970s, 80s and early 90s under the stud name Koonwarra might have seemed to have been easily gained, it only came through standing against the odds and following his own mind.
And there the parallels are- I too believe I am standing against the odds and following my own mind.
After the death of his own father at a young age, dad followed his desire to breed a fine to fine-medium wool type Merino with enormous size and physical presence and with wool production levels equal to the industry's best.
The sheep he bred at that time were a revelation and proved a big sheep could grow a fine-medium type fleece at a time it was the domain of big sheep to grow a bold medium to strong wool fleece.
Confirmation he succeeded in setting his type, which had specific attributes that would breed on, was when his stud rams attracted attention from fellow Merino breeders, and Koonwarra became a parent stud of the modern era, influencing many studs which are prominent today.
Today at Thalabah that goal has not changed.
But the Merino and the sheep industry has.
Today, to breed a true fine-medium wool fleece sheep with size, with a handy carcase, together with large wool cut and be at the top of the industry is a lot harder than it sounds.
Actually, everything feels a lot harder at the moment.
When my dad was in his absolute glory days the Merino was also basking in its own golden era.
The country at that time was literally riding on the sheep's back.
At the time, the wool industry gave Australia one of the highest living standards in the world.
The economy rode high on wealth from primary exports.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, wool was synonymous with the Australian way of life.
During this time dad dominated the fine to fine-medium wool sheep world for nearly three decades with fellow sheep breeders saying his sheep were virtually unbeatable.
I am not saying it was easy for dad to do what he did, but I believe he and all Merino breeders during that halcyon period of the wool industry certainly didn't have the challenges or adversities we face now.
I know my time in the Merino industry will be vastly different to my father's.
Yes, we will continue to grow as much wool on a sheep as we possibly can without sacrificing the quality of wool.
We will compete in the show ring.
We will advance with technology and we will continue to evolve with the Merino as it adapts to the changing demands of the industry.
Some of those demands will be fighting the continuing battle for the Merino against cropping and mixed farming land and now not just against meat breeds, but shedding breeds of sheep.
The wool market is now described, even at its highest point, as volatile and never really did recover from the reserve price scheme suspension in 1991.
Then there is the mulesing debate, the shortage of shearers and the fight in the battle for natural fibres against synthetics.
These are only a few of the challenges.
But in my view, probably the greatest issue of the Australian sheep industry is the dwindling numbers of the Merino ewe.
It seems very apt to me that on this day when we are talking about women and their achievements that we talk about the incredible underestimated importance of the Merino ewe in the sheep industry.
This year at Thalaba on our small morsel of wool growing country on a vast landscape, we will do our part by shearing just over 4000 adult sheep, and by 2026 we hope that number increases to 6000.
In that equation we are determined to run more breeding ewes and less dry sheep.
We are also madly improving the pastures and infrastructure to adequately allow these extra sheep to not only increase in numbers, but thrive.
Our average micron is 19 and our adult ewes cut an average of 7.5 kilos.
We are doing all of this for our business, but we are also doing it for the industry.
The Merino ewe is the cornerstone of the entire sheep industry being at the core of the wool production.
They are also the engine room for the prime lamb industry and their declining numbers are a major worry.
The latest figures from the MLA / AWI sheep and wool survey reveals the number of Merino breeding ewes has declined over the past two years, despite a strong rebound in sheep numbers.
The estimated stock of the Merino ewe base at a national level indicates Merino ewes for breeding have fallen by around one million head, while the numbers for crossbred and other non-Merino types has increased by 1.75 million head over the two-year period.
We take for granted where we are and we are the best country in the world to produce the best Merino in the world.
I realise a lot of decisions in businesses are made on profitability margins.
But the modern day Merinos are doing their job in providing the meat side of the equation to help those margins and they have become incredibly competitive when it comes to the sheepmeat market.
They are very different to the Merino bred 30 years ago.
They are more fertile, and have better carcases.
Current market prices are averaging 800 cents per kilogram for a crossbred lamb and 780c per kilogram for a Merino lamb - that is a difference of just 20c a kilo.
Then top it off with their wool cut.
They are an amazing animal and can do amazing things in an enterprise as well as being used as a natural risk management tool.
I have to believe my dad will be proud of any attempt I and my young family are making to preserve the life of our Merino operation, our stud and our industry.
He was competitive and possessed a steely determination but he was generous to all those he came in contact with.
I inherited his steely determination and his competitiveness.
I can only hope I can be half the person he was.
One thing I will always remember and tell myself is - "hold your head high and open your heart".
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