MALENY HIGH student Sarah Peters won first place at this year’s EKKA in both the Junior Cattle Judging and Junior Cattle Handling competitions, beating a field of more than 300 youth from agricultural high schools across Queensland and NSW.
It was a nerve-wracking experience for the 13 year-old, who says it was the largest crowd she’s ever addressed.
“It was my first year being able to judge in Prime and I was really happy I won,” says Sarah. “Because it was my first time I thought I had completely made a mess of it, but it all came together.
“Basically you have to justify to the judge why you’ve placed your animals the way you have,” she explains of the judging process. “You’ve got to learn what you’re looking for in a nice cow. You look at their structure and how they’re put together, as well as how reproductively sound they are.”
Sarah’s grandmother Joy Peters says the judges at the Ekka were impressed by the quality of judging for somebody so young.
“She’s done extremely well in her judging and handling, which is when they parade their animals in front of a judge.
Sarah began working with beef cattle after a serious horse accident at the age of eight. With Sarah unable to ride horses, her family felt a new hobby would help her regain her confidence.
Maleny High agricultural assistant, Colin Thompson, Sarah’s step-father, has been instrumental in fostering Sarah’s interest.
“One day he took me up to a big bull and told me to go for it,” says Sarah. “I had to lead him around the show ring, which was a bit scary.”
Sarah lives on a small farm in Conondale with her mother Christine and Colin, where she has her own South Devon stud, including a bull called Don.
“Cows are kind of easy to get along with,” says Sarah. “They don’t bite and I actually find them easier to talk to than people. I like cows better than friends sometimes.”
Sarah has been offered work experience by Meat and Livestock Australia and hopes to apply for a scholarship to work with South Devon beef cattle in New Zealand when she turns 15.
“The South Devons were the first cattle to come to Australia with the First Fleet,” she says. “They’re a gentle breed and nice for young people to handle.”