STOCK SKILLS TO LAST A LIFETIME BY OLIVIA COOPER

IT MAY not be Eton, but the show ring is one of the best places to learn valuable skills to last you a lifetime, according to one group of Young Farmers.

Good personal presentation, technical knowledge and public speaking are just three of the essential attributes required to be a successful judge, according to members of the Helston and St Keverne YFC in Cornwall. This year has been their most successful on record, bringing home 11 trophies in one season. And they”ve had a great time doing it.

But the road to judging at national competitions like the Dairy Event and Smithfield is a long and challenging one.

Beginners start by training at local farms, where they are instructed how to assess the animals and place them in order, says club member Adam Care. “It does help if you”re from a farming background,” he adds. After two or three farm visits members will compete at a local show to gain some experience.

County federation training is also available, and the quality of the tutorials is crucial, says club chairman Jeff Kitto. Livestock breeders, butchers, former YFC judges and slaughterers will all give a valuable insight into the technical requirements for each species or carcass.

 Entrants to county show classes will find the competition much tougher, and only the top two or three places will qualify for national competitions. Classes are based on age group, with under 16s, under 21s and 21-26 categories available.

At each event, the young judges have 10 minutes to examine the animals and place them in order.

Those competing in linear assessments must also mark the livestock on 18 different traits, including stature, locomotion and foot angle.

The Young Farmers then have two minutes to present the reasons for their choices to the judge.

 There are 10 marks available for personal turnout, with competitors being marked down for wearing jeans, dirty coats and so on. “The higher up you go the more important this becomes,” says Adam.

 Accuracy of observations will earn another 25 points, with 50 to be had for correct placing of the animals. Another 15 marks are on offer for positive comparison and correct use of terminology, he adds

. “A lot of the training is about being able to put things into words. You”ve got to be able to say why one animal is better than another, without being negative about either. You do need to be interested in the subject to put your point across well.”

Cornwall YFCs sent seven members to the Dairy Event, five of whom came from the Helston and St Keverne club. Jeff and Adam both won their classes, bringing home the National Dairy Cattle Linear Assessment trophy and Young Stock Judge of the Year, respectively. No member of the club had ever reached the final at a national event, making these successes even more remarkable.

“We do put quite a bit of effort into it,” says Jeff. “And as a group it”s brought us closer together.”

 Vice-chairman Christopher Wearne adds that it is unusual to have so many successful judges in one club. “Whatever you”re doing you always manage to have a laugh as there are a lot of people with similar interests.”

Most of the group found the most difficult part of judging was presenting their choices to the judge. “I think it”s the best introduction to public speaking you can ever have,” says Jeff. Former chairman Matt Jenkin agrees: “It really brings out more confidence in yourself.”

Matt Jenkin and Adam Care will have their judging skills put to the test soon. They have both been selected for the Young Farmers judging teams at the Royal Smithfield Show next week.