Victorian women win sheep meat dairy competitions at Sydney Royal

Both women from Girgarre and Mount Eliza are in their early 20s.

YOUNG WINNER: Zoe Hayes, Girgarre, was crowned the 2021 nation's best young dairy cattle judge at the Sydney Royal Easter Show at the weekend.

Two young Victorian women have won national judging titles during the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Zoe Hayes from Girgarre won the nation's best young dairy cattle judge for 2021, while Tess Runting from Mount Eliza won Australia's best young meat breeds sheep judge for 2022.

The competitions for the last two years were held simultaneously at the Sydney Royal after COVID lockdowns forced the cancellation of the 2021 competition last year.

Ms Hayes, 22, and Ms Runting, 23, join Ararat's Ben Hartwich on the national winner board after the 23-year-old sheep farmer won the national Merino sheep judging championship last Wednesday.

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Ms Hayes said judging on a national stage required a lot of confidence, but competing has been a dream of hers since she was a child.

"My dad (Tony Hayes) is someone I grew up watching as he travelled to New Zealand and England where he was invited to judge," Ms Hayes said.

"Being around my dad and nan Gloria Hayes, seeing and listening to their passion for breeding and looking at good cows is something I have also developed a passion for, and why we show cows as a family today."

HARD WORK PAYS OFF: Tess Runting, Mount Eliza, was named the nations best young meat breeds sheep judge for 2022.

Meanwhile, Ms Runting, who runs Moralla Corriedales stud at Mount Eliza, developed an interest in breeding sheep as an 11-year-old.

"I got involved in sheep through my high school and ever since then I've been really interested in the industry and passionate about encouraging other young people," she said.

"I started by Corriedale stud when I was 17 while I was at school and I've had lots of young people come through the stud and gain experience."

In the last decade, Mrs Runting has also worked closely with Andrew Sellars-Jones at Chandpara Southdown stud, Tylden, and said she had received incredible support from the Victorian Corriedale Association

Mr Runting was the runner-up in the sheep meat judging competition at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in 2019, but her chance to compete at national level was delayed two years due to COVID.

"Long-term I want to own and run my own property and be able to support young people into the industry," she said.

"I want to continue to educate people not just in the industry, but the public in general about where their food and fibre comes from."

Competitions help prepare next crop of industry leaders

Agricultural Shows Australia chair Rob Wilson said competitions at a national level helped establish the next generation of community leaders in agriculture.

"We think it's extremely important and ASA has been spending a lot of money and time to improve the status of these judging events," Dr Wilson said.

"We want to raise the profile of these competitions at a grassroots level because these people have to win at a local show, then a zone in their respective state and that entitles them to compete at the nationals."

Dr Wilson said the training and exposure of handling animals, as well as a requirement to be a confident public speaker, helped develop life skills and encouraged contestants to be advocates for the industry.

"This is a leadership pathway we're trying to encourage for all our young people in the ag show movement," he said.

"The importance of women in agriculture to gain this leadership experience is very important.

'We hope they will take leadership roles with their local ag societies on the committee or preferably eventually as presidents."

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