Teen tops with an eye for merinos

Alice Satterthwaite, 15, who won the young merino-judging competition at the Marlborough A&P Show on Saturday, will compete at the final at the Canterbury show on Friday.

Alice, who lives on Muller Station in the Awatere Valley, said her dad Steve Satterthwaite and Australian stock classer Stuart Hodson taught her how to recognise a quality merino. She learned at the side of the late Graham Black, of Awapiri Station, a renowned merino judge.

"I have grown up around sheep," Alice said.

She has her heart set on a career in agriculture, preferably in the high country, and will study the subject at school next year, but finds practical experience most valuable.

"I will be slaving away at home over summer," she said.

The year 11 student at Rangi Ruru Girls' School in Christchurch has four NCEA exams this week before competing at the merino judging final. Her parents will be in Christchurch to watch her compete.

The six entrants in the Marlborough judging competition were asked to rank the merinos then justify the placings to the crowd of onlookers.

Competition judge Ron Small, of Blairich Station in the Awatere Valley, told the six competitors that the best and worst sheep spoke for themselves so the trick was judging the middle two.

Tips included walking right around each sheep and not leaning over them. He also advised against getting between a sheep's back legs when tipping them over as one kick could spell the end of a day's judging.

Alex Smith, of Awapiri Station in the Awatere Valley, was placed second, also qualifying to compete at the Canterbury show. However, he cannot attend, so third-placed Jess Payton, 24, who grew up at Rai Valley and works in Christchurch, will take his place.

The top judge at the Canterbury show wins a trip to Australia.

The Marlborough Express