Mint Lamb honours for Texel stud owner

His lamb might have been judged the most tender and juiciest in Canterbury but Paul Gardner still prefers hogget on his dining table.

Mr Gardner, who runs the Kallara Texel stud farm near Mayfield together with his wife Kay, was pleasantly surprised to see his ewe lamb beat the other 79 entries to take the title of 2014 Mint Lamb at the Canterbury A&P Show.

Lambs were judged on the hook for the best overall yield, with the top four lambs in each class sent to be tested for tenderness at Lincoln University.

The top three selected in each class became the finalists and went on to be taste-tested at the show. The cuts of meat were cooked by chef Graham Hawkes and taste-tested by four judges in front of the show crowds.

The Gardners' lamb was second in the yield test and stayed in second after testing for the most tender.

''I didn't think it would win after that, so I was pleasantly surprised,'' Mr Gardner said.

Two of the judges told him after judging that his lamb cuts stood out from the others as they were so tender and juicy.

He is expecting the win to help sales of stock from his stud.

Placing third in the ram hogget class, winning champion ewe and coming second in the interbreed section at the Canterbury show would also help.

A member of the New Zealand breed council for Texels, Mr Gardner has been breeding the sheep for 20 years, first in North Canterbury and in more recent years in Mid Canterbury.

The breed's establishment in New Zealand 25 years ago will be marked at a conference in Methven next May.

''Breeding is improving all the time. The sheep we have now are vastly different from those first ones. They had big shoulders and were dumpy animals.''

Texels will also be the featured breed at the Mackenzie Highland Show and the Wanaka A&P Show next year.

Mr Gardner paid tribute to his drafter, Geoff Wright, from Hazlett Rural Ltd, for his selection of the winning lamb.

''He's a very good judge of stock.''

It was important to inspect stock when buying, Mr Gardner said.

''Some people work on the numbers and buy without seeing the animal. If I'm buying a ram I wouldn't buy it without seeing it. It's important to sight sheep and know what you are getting,'' he said.

He aimed to buy a sire every year but sometimes there was a two-year gap, he said.

He hadn't bought a ram yet this year and while he was going to sales in Feilding next week, he wasn't expecting to buy one there.

''I generally buy out of the South Island. I'm quite fussy.''

The next generation is keeping up the interest in sheep breeding, with daughter Felicity running a Romney stud, Rosehope, on the property.

''She's had a very good season too. She won champion ewe at Christchurch.''

Mr Gardner has not been tempted to join his neighbours and convert to dairying.

''I enjoy buggering around with sheep and get a great deal of satisfaction out of exhibiting. I've made a lot of good friends through it.''


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