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Hands-on, practical stockmanship training

With the support of AWI, the Hay Inc Rural Education Program in the Hay district of NSW continues to help young people gain hands-on agricultural skills, wool harvesting training and experience.

PHOTO: Mads Porter Photography

The 15 young participants in the 2023 Hay Inc Rural Education Program came together in June for their third and final training week, which was followed by their graduation at the Hay Merino Sheep Show at which they were presented with their certificates.

The Hay Inc Rural Education Program was launched in 2014 with support from AWI in response to concerns about the decline in the traditional jackaroo/jillaroo system in the western Riverina district of NSW and the associated lack of stockmanship and other essential rural skills being handed down to the younger generation.

“Through the Hay Inc program, young people are now being given the opportunity to learn the practical agricultural skills needed for them to get jobs on rural properties. It focuses on wool and livestock production and takes place in a practical setting in partnership with local woolgrowers. This year, we also included an Ag Careers panel which involved some of the Hay Inc alumni and others sharing their stories of their careers,” said program manager Sandra Ireson.

“The program is delivered by trainers who have many years of experience on extensive rural properties, covering topics based around the production calendar for sheep, wool production and cattle. We also engage Tocal and TAFE trainers for some accredited training, ie workplace health and safety.”

Applications for the 2024 training program are now open. Employers can send their employees on the program or other interested young people can apply directly. Applicants can be from anywhere and do not have to be from the Hay district. Scholarships for graduates of the program are also available.



The training covered a wide range of subjects such as a three-day introduction to shearing by AWI at ‘Curragh’ that also included a wool handling demonstration by Rose Nevinson, and a sheep classing day at ‘Burrabogie’.

Practical, hands-on training

The Hay Inc program is a three-week course, in three blocks of five days’ training, this year in February, March and June.

Topics covered include sheep handling and yard work, shearing and wool shed management, sheep health and nutrition, lamb marking, Merino sheep classing, sheep pregnancy scanning and lamb postmortems. Other topics included working dog training, livestock water maintenance, fence construction and maintenance, farm health and safety, quad bike and motorbike operation and maintenance, natural resource management and plant identification.

AWI has supported the Hay Inc program each year since its inception and will be supporting the 2024 program. The application form for those aged 18 to 25 years is available on the Hay Inc website.

“Our funding in programs like this aims to help improve the engagement of young people interested in the wool industry, thereby developing and retaining the skills the wool industry needs to be innovative in response to new challenges,” said AWI CEO John Roberts.

More information:

2024 Rural Education Program applications are now open via:

This article appeared in the September 2023 edition of AWI’s Beyond the Bale magazine. Reproduction of the article is encouraged.

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