School program inspires career in ag

School program inspires career in ag


Sheep
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AN agricultural program at Chairo Christian School, Pakenham, was the starting point of Chevonne Willis’ farming career.

AN agricultural program at Chairo Christian School, Pakenham, was the starting point of Chevonne Willis’ farming career.

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The 19 year-old now runs her very own sheep stud, Harleydale Corriedale stud, with boyfriend Blayne Bridge, at her family’s property in Officer.

Ms Willis had been involved in the school’s sheep program since year 7, but said it wasn’t until year 9 that inspiration struck.

“My interest really developed in year 9, we had an orphan lamb, and I volunteered to take him home, and I reared him up, and ended up buying him from the school as my very first ram,” Ms Willis said.

This was the beginning of Ms Willis’ future in farming, as her Corriedale flock began to grow, and she registered it as a stud in 2015.

“We had another orphan lamb in year 10, so I took him home and bought him off the school again, and after that I organised to buy two ewes from Jim and Brenda Venters,” she said.

“They were 11 months-old when I bought them, so I grew them out and then took them to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show (ASWS) in Bendigo, and I got a second and a third in the open classes.”

She said following this, Mr and Ms Venters, Stonehaven, were retiring their Liberton Corriedales stud, and were looking to pass on some of their sheep to a passionate breeder.

“They gave me a ewe that had had success at Bendigo and Sheepvention, they didn’t want her to go to someone who would just leave her sitting in the paddock when she had so much potential,” she said.

Ms Willis joined her five ewes for the first time later that year, and got seven lambs, and then the following year joined eight ewes and got 13 lambs.

She said the name of the stud, Harleydale, came from her first ever ram, ‘Harley’, and the name of her town, formerly ‘Officedale’.

She said she loves attending events like Sheepvention and the ASWS to show her animals.

“I love going out and showcasing what I believe is a Corriedale true to its breed,” she said.

“Shows are really good because you learn a lot about what you have to improve, you might take an animal that you think is really good, but then you’ll get feedback from the judges or other breeders who’ve been doing it for decades.”

Currently studying a Diploma of Agriculture and a Certificate III in Agriculture at Melbourne Polytechnic in Epping, Ms Willis said she is grateful for the opportunities she had at high school.

“When I started in the sheep program in year 7, I learned a lot from the older students about showing and breeding sheep, and then when I was in year 12, I became a mentor, so passing on that same knowledge to younger students,” she said.

“I’ve always loved animals, but it wasn’t until I got really involved in sheep that I really thought I could pursue it as a career.”

But she said at this point in time, she’s not exactly sure where it will take her.

“I’m hoping to get into the wool industry or animal nutrition, but I still don’t know exactly where I want to go,” she said.

“I’m also hoping to buy more land and expand my flock and make it more sustainable, and maybe even breed some cows too.”

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