Juniors’ judging skills put to the test

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
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Dowerin Junior Merino judging Fleece category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Morawa Year 10 student, Shanaya Ashworth, with AWN WA wool manager and fleece judge, Greg Tilbrook.
Camera IconDowerin Junior Merino judging Fleece category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Morawa Year 10 student, Shanaya Ashworth, with AWN WA wool manager and fleece judge, Greg Tilbrook. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Dozens of keen students from three WA agriculture colleges took part in the Dowerin Junior Merino Judging competition, with winners earning the right to test themselves against the State’s best young judges.

The competition, held at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days on August 25, was the third and final qualifier for the Agricultural Shows Australia State finals, which will be held at the Perth Royal Show this month .

In the Merino sheep and meat sheep categories, students were tasked with ranking four animals based on various characteristics before giving an oral presentation to competition judges to explain their placings.

In the Merino fleece category, they ranked four fleeces according to which they thought was the most valuable.

WA College of Agriculture — Harvey proved the strongest contender, with Year 11 students Ella Rendell and Sam Cox scooping awards for Merino sheep judging and meat sheep judging categories respectively.

For 16-year-old Ella, who grew up on a hobby farm in Golden Bay near Mandurah, it was a chance to gain valuable experience.

Dowerin Junior Merino judging meat sheep category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Harvey Year 11 student Sam Cox.
Camera IconDowerin Junior Merino judging meat sheep category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Harvey Year 11 student Sam Cox. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

“I’m definitely keen to work in agriculture when I finish school, and I especially have a big interest in sheep,” she said.

“I really have been enjoying the Merino and wool side of things, and also the breeding.”

Ella, who was competing for the first time, described the win as “amazing” and “unexpected”.

Seasoned competitor Sam, also 16, said she had been judging dairy cattle for “four or five years” before judging sheep for the first time at last year’s Wagin Woolorama.

“It’s exciting to win, it was definitely unexpected, though — I didn’t think I’d done well,” she said.

“I think bringing all the ag schools together makes it a really good competition to be in.”

Dowerin Junior Merino judging Merino sheep category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Harvey Year 11 student Ella Rendell.
Camera IconDowerin Junior Merino judging Merino sheep category winner and WA College of Agriculture — Harvey Year 11 student Ella Rendell. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Sam, who grew up in Stratham in WA’s South West, where she enjoyed helping out on a friend’s dairy farm, said she was keen to study animal health and science at university.

For fleece judging winner and WA College of Agriculture — Morawa Year 10 student Shanaya Ashworth, from Jurien Bay, getting out of her comfort zone proved the key to victory.

“I actually didn’t want to do the fleece judging, but my teacher was like ‘no, Shanaya, you’ve got to do it’,” the 15-year-old said.

“I find it easier to judge the other categories, but it turns out I’m obviously better at judging fleeces.

“The competition was a lot bigger than the others I’ve been in, so at first it was a bit intimidating, but the judges were really good and they made it really comfortable.”

WA College of Agriculture — Morawa farm manager Leanne Grant-Williams, who organised the competition, said she was “thrilled to bits” with the turnout.

AWN WA wool manager and fleece judge Greg Tilbrook teaches students how to assess Merino fleeces.
Camera IconAWN WA wool manager and fleece judge Greg Tilbrook teaches students how to assess Merino fleeces. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

“We had 45 students from three ag colleges — Harvey, Cunderdin and Morawa — as well as Kelmscott Senior High School, so this was a really good turnout,” she said.

Ms Grant-Williams said junior judging competitions gave students the skills and confidence needed to secure a career.

“I think it’s really important to showcase what we actually learn at the ag colleges, and the learning that they do gain, they can go out into the industry with,” she said.

“If they don’t get the exposure, it’s really hard to get an introduction into the industry.

“My students have been in these competitions in the past, and they’re (now) working in the wool industry. It’s actually got them jobs, so I think it’s pretty valuable.”

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