MATTHEW Gregory from Goulburn has achieved an honour usually bestowed on dairy cattle hands much older than himself.
He has been judged the Champion Dairy Cattle Parader of NSW.
Junior cattle handling has five age groups with young people up to 25 years old competing for the honour of being NSW’s best before going on to compete at the Australian championship.
Matthew turns 15 in July and at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, where the event was held, there were former state and national champions competing for the honour of representing NSW at the National Championships in Brisbane later this year.
Matthew is not from a dairy farming background but his parents do run a few beef cattle on their small Southern Tablelands farm.
Matthew is a Year 9 boarder at Hurlstone Agricultural High School.
He took on preparing the school’s dairy cattle for show as an extra-curricular activity at the beginning of last year and attended several shows where he competed in the junior parader competitions, including the 2013 Sydney Royal.
“Preparing a cow for show includes washing and clipping them in a particular way,” Matthew said.
“Then you have to put a show halter on them and lead them into the ring.
“The aim is to show your animal to its best advantage, standing it well and presenting it in a positive fashion so the judge will notice it above the other animals in the ring.”
This also requires the handler to keep his or her animal under control and responsive to efforts to pose it.
After being placed first in his age division, 13 to 15 years, Matthew found himself up against four females for the championship.
The heifer Matthew paraded was an Ayrshire dairy cow from his school’s herd.
He had worked with her a few times before including at the Robertson Show where he placed sixth and again at Camden where he won.
In Sydney there were about 70 competitors and it was quite a surprise when he won his age division, though he knew he and his cow had performed well.
“I did not have any expectation of becoming champion knowing the experience of other competitors in the competition,” Matthew said.
“I just went out there to do my best. Hurlstone Majors Finale is a naturally calm cow and a pleasure to work with.”
Dennis Mashek from Iowa, USA, judged the competition. He was particularly looking for how the competitors handled their animal and answered his questions as well as how quickly they responded to the cues he gave for leading, stopping and standing the cattle.
“It’s the little things that make a difference in showmanship,” Mr Mashek said.
“Matthew did a tremendous job. He led the heifer perfectly all day, never missed and walked her as smooth as can be.”
Matthew is looking forward to the opportunity to compete in Brisbane at the Royal Show in August.
Here he will be given an hour to train with an animal that is selected from a hat draw.
The reserve champions ribbon was awarded to a young woman from Victoria, the winner of the under-25 age group in the NSW Dairy Breeds Parader Championship.
Cattle showing is not Matthew’s only interest.’
He plays basketball and soccer and referees basketball, soccer and touch.
Most weekends he comes home to the family farm near Marulan where his parents also breed German Shepherds.
In winter, Saturdays are taken up by sport most weekends.
Matthew first learnt about presenting an animal to its best advantage in the dog breeds show ring.
He has extended that early learning to the dairy cattle ring.
Matthew thanked Hurlstone Agricultural High School and teachers Sandra Hackett, John Howling and Leanne Fraser for their guidance and encouragement throughout the competition and in the lead up to the NSW Championship.