21 April 2022

Harden lad the nation's best young Merino judge

| Edwina Mason
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Young man holding award

Patrick Davis of Demondrille Stud at Harden has taken out the nation’s top merino judging prize at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. Photo: Agricultural Shows of Australia.

It was a long-haul home to Harden where Patrick Davis worked furiously to complete one of his school assessments just hours after being announced the nation’s best young Merino judge at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

The 18-year-old from the famed Demondrille Stud had taken time away from studies to spend the day fleece deep in Merino ewes and rams at the Show in Homebush, vying for the state and then national title.

There had been little time to reflect on winning both events. Lack of accommodation in Sydney meant the family had to head straight home, but Patrick “Paddy” Davis senior said his son finally had a moment to reflect when they arrived home before he disappeared to finish his schoolwork.

“I said to him, ‘you know you won the nationals? That’s a pretty big deal’ to which Patrick said ‘yeah, it’s good’,” Paddy told About Regional.

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Patrick’s family – Paddy, mum Leanne and sister Abby – had spent the day watching from the sidelines as the fledgling judges faced their day of reckoning under the watchful eye of national finals adjudicators Sam Picker of Hillcreston, Bigga who oversaw the NSW final and John Dalla of South Australian merino stud Owiecowie.

The national championships are held in a different location each year. This year the Sydney Royal Easter Show, celebrating its bicentenary, hosted the 2022 championships including the 2021 finalists unable to compete at the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) due to COVID cancellations.

The Merino sheep and fleece judging competitions – where the young guns are judged on their study of the animals’ characteristics, how clearly they express their decision, how they validate it and even their personal appearance – were sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).

Family with young man holding an award

Patrick with his family (from left) sister Abby, mum Leanne, and father Paddy (right). Photo: Leanne Davis.

Qualification is via success in competitive regional and state competitions.

Patrick said the morning of the nationals proved nerve-racking but the calm from the farm settled in by the afternoon. Possibly the most nervous was Paddy, who watched with an expert eye.

“At one stage during the NSW final I saw him make one mistake, which was a pretty big mistake,” he said. “I thought – oh, he’s definitely in second place now, but he really made up for it through his evaluation at the end.”

The new national champ has emerged from a long line of successful Merino men, starting with his grandfather Bede – who had been breeding fine wool Merinos since 1942.

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In 1983 Paddy and brother Andrew – known as Charlie – established Demondrille Merino Stud near Harden. They used stock from the late Nationals MP, former deputy prime minister and agriculture minister Ian Armstrong’s Tulangi stud near Cowra, a bloodline the family had continually used since 1951.

Demondrille Merino Stud has since enjoyed enormous success with a string of awards in the show ring, most recently winning Supreme Merino Exhibit at the 2019 Sydney Royal Easter Show. They also set a precedent with the unbeatable trifecta of Supreme Ram, Supreme Ewe and Grand Champion Fleece at the 2017 Royal Sydney Show.

In 2011 the stud produced a ram that won Champion Superfine Ram at Armidale and later sold at the Armidale Ram Sale for $11,000 – the top price for the stud.

Award winner at podium

Patrick with the very impressive trophy he won after taking out the NSW championship earlier that day. Photo: Leanne Davis.

In a world where doing is part of learning, an eye for wool and stud breeding becomes instinctive. Patrick said observation, attending shows and having a supportive family helps.

“My father and uncle have really helped me learn how to handle the sheep and all that,” he said.

“I reckon that’s been a big part of it.”

Having completed his assessment at one minute to midnight, the St Patrick’s College Campbelltown student said he’s ready for a break before charging toward the next big test – the 2022 HSC.

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But further to the future he’s looking to return to the farm to continue the excellent work of his family.

Agricultural Shows of Australia (ASA) chairman Dr Rob Wilson said the young judges competition was an extremely prestigious event and positions at the nationals are keenly contested.

“These young people are the future of agricultural show competitions, which are crucial to the continual improvement of Australia’s food and fibre,” he said.

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