With three more states recently coming on board, the Schools Wether Challenge continues to go from strength to strength in helping to attract the next generation into the sheep and wool industry.
Queensland and Tasmania held their first competitons last year, while Vic is holding its first this year.
AWI Hobart consultant and former shearer Lachlan West, who was a guest speaker at a recent national ag teachers conference in SA, helped coordinate getting Tas and Vic involved in the challenge.
He attended the Adelaide competiton in 2022 and was so impressed by its engagement with students, teachers and volunteers.
"I was asked by AWI to help better engage people from Tas and Vic in the wool industry, and we thought the wether challenge was a good way to go," he said.
"We have 11 schools in Vic that have signed up for this year. I'm really looking forward to how that will go. We've got a good distribution of those 11 schools across the state.
"We forsee this one's gonna grow very big, very quickly over the next 3-4 years."
Mr West said the first Tas competition held in Campbell Town last year was also considered a success.
"We had 13 schools participate, with 11 turning up to the competition, and nearly 100 students and teachers involved," he said.
"This year we have 15 schools getting involved - it's been very well received by the schools and everyone else involved."
Qld also held its first competition last year, with six schools involved, run in conjunction with the Ekka.
Mr West said they expect that figure to at least double this year, with the interest expressed so far.
"It's a great program. It does a very good job engaging young kids and teachers and schools across the country," he said.
"The participating schools get allocated six Merino wethers allocated to look after during school, for a period of about six months.
"AWI have also developed excellent resources that complement structured learning around managing sheep, while I also try to get the local community involved, like brokers or other industries, to talk about what is relevant at particular times throughout the program.
"We have found that it is very well received by the schools.
"Then in August or September, depending on the state, friendly school competitions are held, which everyone says is educational, but it also gets highly competitive."
SA - the competition's founding state - is in its 14th year of competition, and had about 400 students from 39 schools compete at the Royal Adelaide Show last year, while NSW - the largest with up to 80 schools expressing interest - is in its 11th year, competes during the Dubbo National Show & Ram Sale.
WA has run the competition for eight years, with five schools, participating at the Royal Perth Show.
At the conference, Mr West also talked about AWI's 50-page 'Your future in wool' guide, which aims to help students align their skills, knowledge and interests with jobs in the wool industry.
"As a multi-billion industry with 200,000 people employed across the country, it's important to promote the wool industry to the next generation," he said.
"We want students to be aware of all the careers available in the wool industry."