Gaining judging experience at Canberra

Focus on youth at Canberra


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Senior meat judging - (Back row) Dan Watkin, Conlan West, Darcy Howard and Emily Nieuwenhuis, over judge Katrina Abbott - (front row) Grace Cummins, Sophie Cargill and Grace Jansen

Senior meat judging - (Back row) Dan Watkin, Conlan West, Darcy Howard and Emily Nieuwenhuis, over judge Katrina Abbott - (front row) Grace Cummins, Sophie Cargill and Grace Jansen

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Involving young people in the art of showing and judging sheep is a major focus each year at the Royal Canberra Show.

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Encouraging youthful participation in the preparation, showing and judging of sheep breeds at the Royal Canberra Show has always been a keen process in taking the next generation through the pleasure and heartache associated with sheep breeding.

Many schools actively participate, encouraging a show team where students breed and prepare stud sheep for the show and which work is an elemental part of the school's agricultural curriculum.

During the 2019 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show, competition among students was intense for the various classes - meat sheep breeds, junior handler and Merino sheep.

In the senior section of the meat sheep judging, over judge Katrina Abbott spoke highly of all contests and praised their application.

Ms Abbott had been associate judge for the Corriedale breed and the classes for Black and Coloured breed during the show.

Associate judge Katrina Abbott at the 2019 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show.

Associate judge Katrina Abbott at the 2019 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show.

As a student at Lithgow High School she was awarded first place in the 14 years and under 20 years Meat and Dual Purpose Breed sheep handlers competition at the 2018 Sydney Royal Show and this was her first opportunity to take that win to a higher level.

"It has been an incredible experience," she said.

"All of the competitors and my fully qualified judge have been really supportive along with the Corriedale Society members here."

Ms Abbott said her knowledge has been broadened by the experience of judging different breeds and appreciate the various traits for which they are bred.

"I'm hoping to be an associate judge here next year," she said when reflecting upon the next stage of her judging career.

Ms Abbott was not the only young person with junior judging experience who was able to step up during the  2019 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show and participate in judging decisions in the sheep section.

Two young men from the South Island of New Zealand were also testing their skills alongside senior judges. 

Will Stewart, a Merino breeder from Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand worked through the junior judging competitions to win a scholarship which enabled his to come to the Canberra Royal Show and participate as associate judge in the finewool Merino classes.

"Starting with judging Merino sheep, I won my region which was Central Otago and went on to the Christchurch Show," Mr Stewart said.

Will Stewart, Central Otago, NZ preparing to to assess a Poll Merino ram during the 2109 Canberra Royal Show.

Will Stewart, Central Otago, NZ preparing to to assess a Poll Merino ram during the 2109 Canberra Royal Show.

"I won the Lady Issac Scholarship to come to the Canberra Show."

Mr Stewart said it was intended he compete in the junior judging but he was older than the age limit, so he was pleased to be an associate judge in the Merino section.

"This is the first time I have properly judged sheep of this quality and it was very good experience," he said.

"I will be able to take this back to New Zealand and carry on with judging there."

Mr Stewart is the stock manager of property associated with a Merino stud operation at Nine Mile Station, Central Otago.

"We finish Merino wether hoggets in the spring and beef cattle," he said.

"Our Merino sheep are very different to what I have seen here."

The Nine Mile stud concentrates on Poll Merinos and Mr Stewart said they have the ability to produce a good carcase for the trade.

"We are looking toward a heavier meat-type which is fast growing, but still with the good Merino wool but not quite to the standard I have been judging here today," he said.

The scale and productive potential of the Merinos at Royal Canberra really impressed Mr Stewart.

Cameron Letham, Canterbury, NZ was associate judge during the judging of the prime lamb and dual-purpose breed classes.

Cameron Letham, Canterbury, NZ was associate judge during the judging of the prime lamb and dual-purpose breed classes.

Cameron Letham from Canterbury, NZ was the associate judge for the Border Leicester breed during the 2019 Canberra Royal Show and further assisted with the schools breeds competitions.

He was born on a mixed sheep and cropping farm on the Canterbury Plain where his family bred Romney, Dorset Downs and Border Leicester flocks.

"I started junior judging at the Royal New Zealand Show (in Christchurch)," Mr Letham said.

With that win he was awarded one of the Lady Issac Scholarship's which enabled his visit to the 2019 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show and be an associate judge.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it … and it was a really rewarding experience," he said.

"With a lot of classes (in the Border Leicesters) there was plenty of opportunity to judge and make comments afterwards."

With the experience of judging for three days alongside experienced sheep breeders, Mr Stewart said he looks forward to continuing to judge in New Zealand. 

"With judging, the more you do the more comfortable you become and with the experience of judging with some very experienced breeders of livestock I learnt how different people go about judging sheep."

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