Job-ready experience at its best: farmlets help students prepare for all-weather conditions

Students using Charles Sturt's 'Empowering Generation Z' farmlets in Wagga Wagga explain how they gain hands-on experience in all-weather farming ahead of National Agriculture Day on Friday 17 November.

Job-ready experience at its best: farmlets help students prepare for all-weather conditions

First published by Charles Sturt University

Students using Charles Sturt's 'Empowering Generation Z' farmlets in Wagga Wagga explain how they gain hands-on experience in all-weather farming ahead of National Agriculture Day on Friday 17 November.

  • Charles Sturt established ‘Empowering Generation Z’ Drought Resilience Farmlets
  • There are nine farmlets which allow students in Wagga Wagga to gain experience managing crops and livestock in variable seasons
  • National Agriculture Day will be held on Friday 17 November

Charles Sturt University is celebrating National Agriculture Day, which is on Friday 17 November, by ensuring the next generation of industry professionals are career-ready at graduation.

Charles Sturt has established nine drought resilience farmlets as part of a program in Wagga Wagga that gives agriculture, animal science and veterinary students hands-on experience for all-weather farming.

The Empowering Generation Z Drought Resilience Farmlets were established at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga in 2022 and 2023 with funding from the Federal Government’s Future Drought Fund.

The nine farmlets are each 6.5 hectares in size, with 50 per cent established pastures and 50 per cent sown to dual purpose crops. Each farmlet is stocked with 18 Composite ewes and their progeny.

Three farmlets are designated ‘best practice’ for rotational grazing of lucerne, early sowing of crops and use of drought lots for feeding sheep off the pastures. Another three are designated ‘conservative practice’ while the rest allow for some level of experimentation for the students.

Senior Research Fellow with the Gulbali Institute of Agriculture, Water and Environment Dr Shawn McGrath said the farmlets give students studying veterinary science, animal science, agricultural science or agribusiness degrees hands-on experience with grazing management, animal husbandry and crop management.

“Students graduating in these disciplines will be future farm and business managers,leaders and consultants, therefore, providing students with hands-on experience through the drought resilience farmlets will mean graduates are well prepared for a future career in agriculture that will operate in a more challenging and variable climate,” he said.

“Hands-on experience builds real world practical skills and will improve student understanding of the concepts.

“Students will be able to have input into the decision making and assess the implications of decisions on productivity, profitability and resources.”

Tasks able to be carried out in the farmlets include animal husbandry, body condition scoring and weighing of sheep, measuring pasture and crop biomass, pasture and weed species identification, Fit to Join assessment of sheep, welfare assessments and crop management.

With El Nino expected for the coming months, Dr McGrath said the farmlets will allow students to gain knowledge in managing livestock, pastures and crops through variable seasons, including periods when rainfall is below average.

The forecast for November to January rainfall is 60 to 80 per cent below the average for most of western, southern and north-eastern Australia.

“Students have been considering the implications of poor rainfall in spring and summer on management of weaned lambs and ewes in the lead up to joining,” he said.

“After assessing the feed on offer, students used fodder budgeting to consider the effects on production under poor compared to average pasture growth conditions from weaning in October through until joining in January.”

Dr McGrath said Charles Sturt has a responsibility to celebrate and recognise National Agriculture Day on Friday 17 November because the University is embedded in the regions and has a history of supporting agricultural education and research.

“Charles Sturt is training the next generation of agricultural consultants, researchers, farmers and other agricultural business managers,” he said.

“The University is conducting important research to improve agricultural productivity and provide tools for producers and managers to improve management, animal welfare and protection of industry through improved biosecurity training.

“We are preparing for future farming systems by managing and using data and testing applications of agtech.”

Ms Emma McTavish from the Blue Mountains is studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga.

She said the farmlets have complemented her learning in pasture and livestock management, recognising different pasture types and animal husbandry with sheep.

“This hands-on learning has reinforced concepts learnt in class by applying them in a real-world situation,” she said.

“It will also help me give advice to farmers about the management of their livestock and pastures once I have graduated and will hopefully help them be more productive and profitable.”

Ms McTavish said National Agriculture Day should be recognised because this country has been built around agriculture and it is an important industry for Australia’s economy, providing jobs across many different fields.

“It is a way of life for many Australians that should be embraced and encouraged, and we should be promoting the development of rural industries,” she said.

As a leader in agricultural education and research, Charles Sturt will host the first Senior School Agriculture Teachers Professional Development Conference in Wagga Wagga from Tuesday 15 to Wednesday 16 October 2024. This conference is for Year 10 to 12 agriculture educators from all states and schools. Expressions of interest are being taken until Friday 15 December 2023.

Media Note: 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or

The Gulbali Institute for Agriculture, Water and Environment is a strategic investment by Charles Sturt University to drive integrated research to optimise farming systems, enhance freshwater ecosystems and improve environmental management, to deliver benefits across Australia and globally.

Photo caption: Veterinary students Brooke Wilson and Emma McTavish at the Empowering Generation Z farmlets at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga.