National ewe hogget contest may change

The long-standing New Zealand Ewe Hogget Competition could be in for a revamp.

The New Zealand Sheepbreeders Association recently announced this year’s competition will not be held for the first time since it was first held in 1998, as organisers take the opportunity to consider its future.

"We’re very disappointed that we had to make that call, but hopefully we can organise something for next year," association general manager Greg Burgess said.

The decision to cancel was due to a lack of volunteers, after several long-time conveners decided to retire from the competition.

"I will be travelling around New Zealand in May and June and hopefully we can drum up support," Mr Burgess said.

"The competition should have a future as everyone is very positive, and for the commercial farmers there are few competitions like it.

"Maybe we need to relook at the format and consider a different judging format."

Association president Tom Burrows was keen to see the competition continue.

"We will have to sit down and look at it. I’ve got a few ideas of my own, but I need to sit down with others to see what they want to do."

While the first national competition was held in 1998, regional competitions date back at least to the early 1990s, Mr Burrows said.

"Local A&Ps used to run them, though there was probably more emphasis on the two-tooths and maybe we need to go back to that.

"I think the ewe hoggets are probably too young, but it’s probably easier to get them looking right for judging."

In recent years the competition had attracted around 225 entries each year and in 2019, 151,000 ewe hoggets were judged throughout New Zealand.

Winners’ field days usually attracted more than 200 people, Mr Burgess said.

With the association celebrating 125 years this year, hopes were high the anniversary would be celebrated at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in November, which was subject to the region being in Covid-19 Alert Level 1 status.

The association was planning to have a special display at the show while an anniversary dinner was planned in the president’s tent on the Wednesday evening, as well as the annual members’ barbecue on Thursday evening.

A commemorative 125th jersey had also been produced to mark the occasion.

"There’s still a cloud of uncertainty as no-one really knows how this year is going to unfold," Mr Burgess said.

"But we have to plan and try to get back to normal as best we can."

While last year’s New Zealand Agricultural Show was cancelled, Mr Burgess was pleased to see the strong support from sheep breeders for the smaller country shows in recent months.

"A lot of the exhibitors who couldn’t make it to Christchurch have targeted those country shows ... and it’s been tremendous for those communities."

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