GROWING up on a mixed farming property in the eastern Riverina has given Joe Kingston, 21, valuable insights into the agricultural industry that stretch well beyond his years.
Mr Kingston, "Springvale," The Rock has already demonstrated his talent for wool classing after achieving a score of 100 per cent in the fine wool Merino category during his examinations last year.
While humble about his accomplishment, this achievement was enough to earn him a place to compete for the coveted Australian Wool Exchange Golden Stencil at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the opportunity didn't come to fruition.
His trip to the royal may have been put on hold, but his passion for the sheep and wool industry certainly hasn't waned despite market pressure from coronavirus.
In July last year Mr Kingston took the step of registering a Merino stud called Bullenbung.
He currently has around 200 registered ewes and has drawn on genetics from the Charinga Merino stud in Victoria to set the foundations.
"I think it is in my blood," Mr Kingston said of his enthusiasm for the sheep and wool industry.
His father Geoff has been involved in the wool industry for a lifetime and keenly shares his knowledge willingly.
"If I learn half of what dad knows I'll be doing alright," Mr Kingston said.
"Dad always had Merinos and I grew up around sheep, and around good fleeces," he said.
"I like to think of the golden era when Australia rode on the sheep's back ... I have always wanted to be part of it myself," he said.
This time last year the wool industry was in good shape with prices regularly averaging more than $20 a kilogram.
Wool was making headlines for hitting highs. Lucrative wool prices were backed up by buoyant prices for prime lambs in the saleyards too.
However, the relationships and markets with China have been affected in recent times and Mr Kingston concedes some of the gloss wasn't currently there.
Yet, he is confident the Australian industry, the high quality and demand will bounce back in the future.
Last month Mr Kingston took some of his rams to Dubbo for the Rabobank National Merino Sales. It was a debut with his own sheep.
"I received a fair bit of interest, and it was good to be there with a number of recognised names in the industry," he said.
The plan for the Bullenbung Stud is to produce heavy-cutting sheep growing 19-micron fleece to fit in with a twice-yearly shearing program.
This six-month shearing is a concept Mr Kingston believes in. He says it's better for the bottom line, sheep husbandry and feed utilization.
"I want to have sheep cutting as much wool as possible while keeping a large frame and remaining productive," he said.
Lambing percentages were also important and Mr Kingston planned to constantly monitor and scrutinise the commercial markers in his business.
"I am obviously young so I have a long way to go but I don't see any signs of (the industry) pulling up yet, I see it going forward," he said.
Mr Kingston conceded that the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic and Australia's trading partners meant there was an element of the unknown to navigate through.
"I can see the wool industry pushing forward and become more of an Australian-based industry once everyone recognises the benefits of wool as a sustainable fibre," he said.
In addition to running his own stud Mr Kingston gains an insight into other flock in the region by working as a wool classer.
He started classing during the middle of the drought. As a result of the tough conditions there was plenty of dusty and poorer quality wool around. However, he now sees that situation turning around for the better.
"The season is coming through and we are going to see some better fresh wool from a good season," he said.
In addition to running Merinos the "Springvale" operation also supports a winter cropping program and has benefited from recent rain.