MOYSTON - Local livestock manager Tim Gubbins has been awarded the prestigious $30,000 Nuffield Scholarship, which he will use to help study how to achieve the full potential of the merino sheep breed.
Mr Gubbins received the award at Nuffield Australia farming scholars' National Conference dinner in Perth recently.
The Moyston-based farmer is a livestock manager on a Willaura property, with responsibility for a merino flock consisting of 5500 commercial ewes and 600 stud ewes, 4000 weaners and 2000 mixed-age wethers. The operation also includes a merino stud and has a winter grazed area of approximately 1200 hectares, as well as an annual cropping program of around 3000 hectares.
Mr Gubbins said receiving the scholarship came as a complete surprise.
"I was actually driving the ute around checking some of the ewes and got a call," he said.
"I couldn't believe it and spent the rest of that day with my head in the clouds a bit.
"A family friend actually introduced the idea and it went from there. I had heard of the Nuffield scholarship but didn't think I met the criteria.
"I went to an information day about it and after speaking to some of the former scholar realised I could apply and thought it would be worthwhile."
Mr Gubbins will use the scholarship to try and help improve a local agricultural issue he said is of high importance.
"I see lambing losses as the biggest issue in the area I am hoping to study. Not only are there production losses associated with this issue, it is also an animal welfare concern," he said.
"I would like to explore the use of DNA markers and electronic identification to better understand genetic traits that could help with lamb survival and growth rates."
His goal is to present his research in a way which is both easy to understand and implement.
"I would like to share and extend the outcomes of my studies through small presentations on a local level," he said.
The majority of the scholarship will be devoted to covering travel expenses for a delegation to run in June next year.
Mr Gubbins will partake in a six week group tour and will visit India, Qatar, Turkey, France and the United States of America.
Mr Gubbins said he would like to thank a number of people, but in particular the Millear family in Willaura, whose farm he has worked on for the past two and a half years.
"They are the primary ones that have allowed me to pursue this and I am hoping that the research and benefits will be brought back to this farm to begin with," he said.