A backlog of young dairy cattle judges vied for the national title at Sydney Royal Show on Easter Sunday with Victorian farmer Zoe Hayes taking out the 2021 broad ribbon while agricultural student Sam Cox won the title for 2022.
As last year's competition was cancelled due to COVID-19, there was some catching up to do at Sydney Royal 2022, where the pesky 'flu bug continues to get up the noses of attendees.
Over-judged by Shoalhaven dairy farmer Craig Cochrane, the 12 competitors - six from each year and one for every state - visually assessed a class of Jersey, Ayrshire and Guernsey before voicing their preferences to the appreciative crowd.
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Mr Cochrane won the same event 35 years ago and praised the young contenders for dealing with "high pressure classes".
Victorian winner for 2021 Zoe Hayes, from Landovery Illawarras at Girgarre, credited her father Tony for teaching her the finer details of dairy judging, and travelled with him in that capacity around Australian and overseas.
The family currently milks 400 head of both Illawarra and Holstein cows and Ms Hayes considers herself part of an industry with a bright future.
"There are a lot of opportunities for young people in dairy right across Australia," she said. "And I can't imagine myself without cows in my life."
West Australian winner for 2022, Sam Cox, was surprised at the outcome and humbled by her broad ribbon. The year 12 student at the WA College of Agriculture - Harvey is no stranger to the podium, having judged dairy cattle for the last five years and in 2021 qualified for her state finals in meat sheep judging.
"I've judged locally and have attended cattle camps," she said of her experience behind this year's national dairy cattle young judges championship. She plans to study animal health and science at university.
"I'm keen to be involved in the industry," she said. "There are lots of opportunities for young people."
Second-place getter for 2021 was Brittany Legge, from Nowra, who works for the judge's brother Tom Cochrane where she "learned from the best in the business".
Second place for 2022 went to Tasmanian William Dudfield from the north-west coastal district of Somerset and who learned dairy through his family's former Jersey stud as well as through his school cattle team's judging days.
Third-place getters Bridget Liebelt, South Australia (2021) and Jerry English, Queensland (2022) credited family involvement and "numerous" youth camps for getting them across the line.
Mr English, who milks Illawarra cows at Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands, reckons there has to be a future for young people in dairy if consumers want to continue drinking milk.
"Consumers are happy to pay for milk if they know it comes from their region," he said. "It's the processors that need to look after the farmers."
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