Hand-on and practical stockmanship training

The 16 young participants in the 2021 program at ‘Burrabogie’, pictured with (from the left) Hay Inc past chairman, Chris Bowman, who is a Merino sheep classer and Hay Inc volunteer trainer; AWI sheep industry specialist, Stuart Hodgson; and Hay Inc program manager, Sandra Ireson. PHOTO: Mads Porter Photography

With the support of AWI, the Hay Inc Rural Education Program in the Hay district of NSW continues to help young people gain hands-on agricultural skills, training and experience.

The 16 young participants in the 2021 Hay Inc Rural Education Program came to together in June for their third and final training week, which was followed by their graduation at the Hay Merino Sheep Show.

The Hay Inc Rural Education Program was launched in 2014 with support from AWI in response to concerns about the decline in the traditional jackaroo/jillaroo system in the western Riverina district of NSW and the associated lack of stockmanship and other essential rural skills being handed down to the younger generation.

“Through the Hay Inc program, young people are now being given the opportunity to learn the practical agricultural skills needed for them to get jobs on rural properties. It focuses on wool and livestock production and takes place in a practical setting in partnership with local woolgrowers,” said program manager Sandra Ireson.

“The program is delivered by trainers who have many years of experience on extensive rural properties, covering topics based around the production calendar for sheep, wool production and cattle.”

Applications for the 2022 training program are now open. Employers can send their employees on the program or other interested young people can apply directly. Applicants can be from anywhere and do not have to be from the Hay district.


Chris Bowman and Stuart Hodgson teaching Merino sheep classing.

Practical and hands-on training

The Hay Inc program is a three-week course, in three blocks of five days’ training, usually spread over a nine-month period. Topics covered include sheep handling and yard work, shearing and wool shed management, sheep health and nutrition, Merino sheep classing, working dog training, livestock water maintenance, fence construction and maintenance, and small engine and motorbike maintenance.

AWI has supported the Hay Inc program each year since its inception and will be supporting the 2022 program. The application form for those aged 18 to 25 years is available on the Hay Inc website.

“Our funding in programs like this aims to help improve the engagement of young people interested in the wool industry, thereby developing and retaining the skills the wool industry needs to be innovative in response to new challenges,” said AWI CEO Stuart McCullough.


The 16 young participants learning how to manage working dogs during training at Shear Outback in Hay, with trainers Edward McFarland and Geoff McDougall.

How to replicate the training program in your community

A 20-page manual that shows how the Hay community came together to establish the Hay Inc Rural Education Program was developed and issued in 2019 by Sandra Ireson. It provides a model that can be adapted and implemented in other rural communities across Australia.

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