Meet Max Edwards who lives, breathes and wears wool

Today’s guest blog comes from Max Edwards who lives, breathes and wears wool


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Spend a week with my family and you’ll soon realise wool is truly woven into my DNA.

G’day, I’m Max Edwards, a 4th generation famer born and raised near Wellington in central-west New South Wales. Growing up in rural Australia has definitely defined me as a person and all my best memories are based around the family farm “Catombal Park” and the many stories that came with being the second oldest of five. Since I could crawl, I have always been heavily involved in all activities at the farm, which in early days mainly consisted of endless hours sitting at my dad’s side in vehicles and tractors, trailing his shadow in the paddocks and sheep yards, or trying not to fall asleep in the long heat of days spent rocking in a baby swing in the shearing shed. Whatever was happening on the farm, I was always surrounded by wool.

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Rolling in wool from a young age

As a 4th generation sheep and wool producer I quickly found my feet and as my brothers followed, dad’s workforce was growing fast. But dreams of being a farmer like dad were halted when I was dragged to town and left crying and trying to escape from pre-school; a habit which was hard to break, ironic given my mum is a school teacher. With a little more size, I soon became an addition to my father and grandfather’s team spending endless weekends and school holidays in sheep yards at either our own or my grandpa’s property. Show and tell was always my favourite part of school; every week having a new story for my class or more experiences to share about farming. This desire to share my background and passion for agriculture is something that has never left me and I doubt it will any time soon. Growing up working in mixed-enterprise operations including sheep, cattle and cropping gave me an interest in the way different systems could complement each other to improve resource utilisation and productivity and allowed me to gain essential experience in a wide range of operations.

But once again, my farming goals were strained when I was shipped off to the “big smoke” to board at St. Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill. I think it’s safe to say the local Joeys boys’ heads were quickly put into a spin when the country boys would tell stories of their holiday activities. Meeting people who had never swam in a dam or tipped a sheep gave me a deep appreciation for my background and I jumped at every chance to drag my city friends out to the farm for a visit so I could share my world with them and see their excitement. My father even got involved further by bringing a little bit of the country to the city, organising a shearing a wool display at our St Joseph’s College Spring Fair.max 3nd

St Joseph’s College Agriculture class of 2011

My great love of country living can also be attributed to my parents always ensuring we maintained a close relationship with our country roots, even though we were so far from home , by taking every opportunity to have the five of us participate in our local show, various field days and community activities when we were at home. During my school terms away from home I learnt that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, and I would often sit and daydream; missing the rolling green hills of home or excitement of mustering stock on horses or motorbikes. But battling through the urges to once again escape home came with many enjoyable experiences as well as giving me my first taste of studying agriculture, which has left an unstoppable hunger to learn more.

Post-HSC I was eager to get out into the industry to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. Over the past years I have been fortunate in being exposed to many different production systems including different farms within the central-west, “Glenwood” Merino Stud, various grazing management field days and working with stock and station agents at the local Dubbo sale yards. It was in my gap year when I quickly noticed how important the relationship is between producers and community networks. When the excitement of no longer being fenced in by schools had finally worn off I soon realised I still wanted to learn more and find a way I could contribute to agriculture and the sheep and wool industries that raised me. It was now ME deciding to leave the farm yet again, but this time with high anticipation for what was to come.

Now in my 4th year at The University of Sydney completing a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience I can honestly say I haven’t regretted the decision once. It was during this degree I further strengthened my interests in extensive livestock production systems, particularly sheep and wool. Over the course of the last 3 years I have enjoyed once again being able to share my background and experience with the mostly unfamiliar students, especially during practical sessions where many laughs were shared. I endeavoured to find opportunities to extend my knowledge of the sheep industry and was able to gain vital experience through excursions, placements and also by taking on Sheep and Wool units offered by The University of New England. I was also privileged to attend the 2016 Spatially Enabled Livestock Management (SELM) Symposium where I was invigorated to further my interests in the field of remote monitoring and applying precision livestock management, a key field that will no doubt be crucial in years to come.


Sharing farming experience has always been a passion

My honours research project currently running on my family farm will also be in this field and involves remotely weighing sheep in the paddock and recording daily weight changes to help make better management decisions.  This year will also present many exciting opportunities for me including representing The University of Sydney competing in the National Merino Challenge and also the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association’s program later this year. Although I am extremely eager to return to the land, I also have a burning desire to further develop farming technology and ensure it reaches the producers it would help the most. Along the way I plan to continue sharing my passion for wool production and inviting everyone I meet to come and see the world of Australian farmers.

I hope when I am 86, like my Grandpa, I will be ringing my son and grandson to check “that everything is ready for shearing tomorrow”, still with great enthusiasm and always with the desire to improve the quality of our sheep and their wool.

Cheers, Max Edwards

Check out some of the high tech procedures in the Wool Industry you will get to be part of of you do an animal science degree at Sydney University

Meet Chloe Dutschke who found her calling on a sheep station in South Australia

Today we welcome guest blogger Chloe Dutschke a young girl who loves her job working on a sheep station in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Chloe is committed to showing the world that there are career pathways in the wool industry that welcome creative individuals with a diversity of knowledge.

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Hi Guys, my name is Chloe Dutschke and I’m 22 years old. I sometimes wish I was raised on a family farm, but truthfully I’m a country girl who grew up on 8 acres in The Clare Valley wine region of South Australia. Growing up we had an assortment of pets including chickens, sheep and of course horses, but my favourite was our pet pig Sid. I have always had a love for animals (yes I’m the soppy kind who cries in the movie Red Dog) which has led me on an amazing journey, and got me a job that I love, on a sheep station in the Southern Flinders Ranges, SA, developing my newly discovered passion for wool production.

My story starts on a family friend’s white Suffolk stud in the Riverland, SA. My sisters and I spent many weekends in the ute checking on the sheep, especially at lambing time. I loved driving through the mallee scrub, watching the ewes feeding small white lambs, and seeing their happy little tails wiggling while drinking. I soon turned from the passenger to driver, and on visits from Clare, would zoom through the sand dunes rounding up the sheep or catching lambs for marking. Ram sales were another favourite.

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Merino Rams Sale Source 

I’d spend all day watching the farmers choose their bids and cross check their programs as the next ram entered the ring. Listening to the auctioneers chaotic spiel, engaging the crowd and seeing them pick up on the smallest flick of a card was always exciting and would send me into a panic each time I raised my hand to shoo a fly, scared that I’d make a bid!

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Lamb marking

It was in year 7 that I started to develop my interest in agriculture. I loved ag class and only doing a semester each year was not ideal, but I worked really hard and enjoyed every moment of being out in the veggie garden, cleaning out the pig eco shelter or feeding the layer chicks. The highlight for me was definitely attending the Royal Adelaide Show. Every year Clare High School takes goats and steers to the show and participates in the led and carcass competitions; this is highly competitive amongst students and the best fun! I was a part of the goat team in year 10 and the steers in year 11.

Clare High School at Adelaide ShowI loved every moment of being a part of this team; it was a great way to learn responsibility around animals and obviously got you 4 free days at the Royal Adelaide Show. By year 11 I had decided I was going to study Animal Science at university and had to give up my beloved ag class to pursue my prerequisites of maths, chemistry and biology. What a drag those subjects were, but it all payed off ,and in 2012 I packed my bags and moved to Adelaide to start my Bachelor of Animal Science at The University of Adelaide.

When I started university I had a real passion for wildlife. I wanted to be a zoo keeper that saved endangered animals. Throughout university, my passion for wildlife took a back seat as I developed more of an interest for livestock production. I studied a mixed bag of subjects including nutrition, welfare and ethics, anatomy, health, genetics, reproduction, livestock and many more. Whilst each subject opened new thoughts to what I could do in the agriculture industry, I could never quite make up my mind, about which area I would like to pursue as a career.

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Wool of a sheep in Indonesia

My last year of university was the best by far; I participated in The Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition, where I was part of the team that came 4th in the placings category. We competed against other universities in Australia as well as international teams such as America, Indonesia and Korea. This was a great week long program where I learnt so much about consumers and got a real idea for what I could do in this industry. In November I was also lucky enough to go to Indonesia for a 2 week study trip, primarily looking at the live export industry. We visited feedlots, abattoirs, community projects, and The Bogor Agricultural University as well as many other interesting places. Going to Indonesia helped me understand the live export industry and it really hit home the amount of consumer misconceptions within the Australian public. For me, I went to Indonesia with my own unrealistic views of the industry and it has been worthwhile to see the industry first-hand and now be able to generate my own opinions and views on the topic.

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Throwing a fleece

Fresh out of university and still unsure of exactly what career path I wanted to take, I successfully landed a job on a sheep station north east of Orroroo, SA. My first day on the job was on January 5th 2015, I was thrown straight into shearing and crutching, the busiest times for a sheep producer. I was asked to roust-a-bout, and was well and truly in over my head trying to throw fleeces, skirt and press. As I stood at the table skirting the wool, running my fingers along the fleece, I really began to appreciate the wondrous fibre that wool is. I love the feel of wool between my fingers and how each fleece can differ in length, micron, colour and strength between breeds and even ages of sheep. It’s amazing to think that a burr covered sheep which has been grazing only on pastoral land can produce such a soft clean fleece. Since my first day I have been furthering my knowledge about wool and how to breed and grow sheep to produce the best wool possible. I’m not really sure where I‘m heading in this industry, whether I would like to become a wool classer or continue on stations, but the opportunities are endless and eventually I know I’ll find the right fit for me. For now I am super excited to develop my passion and continue to educate myself as much as possible about this remarkable fibre that many generations have developed before me.

Check out this great from Farm to Fashion video and like Chloe you will be fascinated by wool