Last Friday was a day to remember for Claire Pearce, with the 21-year-old from Mount Torrens being crowned as the highest senior achiever at this year's SA Sheep Expo.
Now in its fifth year, the expo has never before had an SA entrant taking out the major award, and Ms Pearce said she felt "honoured and excited" to receive the top gong.
"It's such an excellent opportunity to go to Sheep Expo, I highly recommend it to anyone interested, and I'm ecstatic that I'm here with this opportunity at the end of it all," she said.
As part of the award, Ms Pearce has won a study tour to New Zealand to the value of $4500, jointly sponsored by the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association and the SA Sheep Industry Fund. She hopes the trip will expand her knowledge of the sheep industry.
She also hopes to bring back a number of ideas for Mount Barker business Hills Farm Supplies, where she works and where her father, Anthony, is one of the company's founding directors.
"I'm going there to make a comparisons between what they do over there, and what we do," she said.
"I want to see what equipment they use, what feed rations they incorporate, what soil types they have, what their sheep shows are like, what they offer in their fodder stores, and grow Hills Farm Supplies based on all that knowledge.
Everyone here loves sheep, loves ag, loves talking to you, it's just such a great atmosphere to be in.
"Dad went to America a while ago and brought back so many equipment ideas about what they use that we don't - I hope I get to do the same thing."
Ms Pearce is extremely passionate about Hills Farm Supplies, and with a business degree under her belt, and intentions to return to university to study agricultural science in the coming years, has a "big plan in her head" as to how to grow the store's potential.
"My Dad is great, and he knows so much, but he's old school - sometimes it's nice to have someone fresh with the social media and marketing skills, stepping in and creating that extra business and income," she said.
Ms Pearce has always been interested in agriculture, having been involved in her family's sheep stud, Telpara Suffolks, from a young age, while also working alongside Anthony in animal nutrition programs and feeding and pasture trials.
This is the second time she has competed in Sheep Expo, first entering as an intermediate in the event's inaugural year in 2016, but unable to enter in the following years due to university and work commitments.
"Both (the 2016 and 2021 events) have been excellently run, but it's definitely got a lot more organised, and seeing the progress has been great; I can only imagine it's going to get even better in the future," Ms Pearce said.
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"I've really enjoyed having my buddies this year, working with younger kids, and getting the opportunity to teach them and show them what I know has been wonderful.
"All three of them placed in their classes in the handler competitions, I'm super proud of them."
While next year will be Ms Pearce's final chance to compete in the event before she is too old to enter, she intends to be involved for years to come.
"Even when I get to old to compete, I'm still going to come back and hopefully join the organising committee, I'd love to keep being a part of the event if I can.
"Everyone here loves sheep, loves ag, loves talking to you, it's just such a great atmosphere to be in."
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