Bradley Parkes’ skill for judging Holstein Friesian dairy cattle has taken him around New Zealand and even overseas.
The 33-year-old, who milks 250 cows with his partner Nicole Johnson near Eltham in Taranaki, is a certified senior judge.
The passionate Holstein Friesian breeder is often called on to assess the structural traits of dairy animals entered in shows.
“I find judging dairy cows extremely rewarding. It’s a skill to quickly rank a group of animals in a show ring, or on farm,” said Bradley.
“I especially enjoy providing feedback to people about cows or heifers they have bred and highlighting their strong points.”
Bradley first qualified as a senior judge when he was 18.
He’s judged in Australia and last year judged the national final of the Holstein Friesian NZ/Semex On Farm Competition.
The regional finals of the popular competition saw 89 breeders put forward 645 animals for judging.
“I got to travel from Northland to Southland to judge the top two regional finalists in each age group,” said Bradley.
“It was a bit daunting to start with, but it was an amazing experience.”
“It was interesting to see how the daughters of a range of bulls performed on farms in different parts of New Zealand,” he said.
Bradley has to resit his judge’s certificate every two years, achieving a pass rate of at least 80 per cent.
He was one of a number of breeders from the Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu and Taranaki who attended a judging school in Stratford last week.
The event was organised by Holstein Friesian NZ and was designed to hone the skills of current judges and attract new talent.
“The schools are a great way to pass on knowledge to the next generation of judges,” said Wayne Taylor.
Wayne and his wife Leeanne milk 190 cows near Waitara. He helped run four judging schools in the Waikato, Taranaki, Marlborough and South Canterbury.
“As an organisation we pride ourselves on our judging schools,” said Wayne.
“They enable us to achieve uniformity in the way our judges present themselves in the show ring and the reasons they give for their placings.”
New judges start off as associates and often work alongside senior judges in dairy cattle show rings at A&P shows to gain experience.
“A number of regions haven’t had cattle at their A&P shows recently because of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak,” said Wayne.
“The situation has meant there haven’t been as many opportunities for younger judges to practice and hone their skills.”
Wayne has been a senior judge for almost 20 years.
His stud, Muritai Holsteins, has won the prestigious Valden Cow of the Year competition four times.
“I find the skills I’ve developed as a judge come in handy when analysing our cows at home, prior to making mating decisions,” said Wayne.
“Understanding the faults in your cows is a huge strength for any dairy business. It arms you with knowledge to help you breed even better cows.”
The Stratford judging school was held at the dairy farm of Gary and Karen Peters.