World Champs come to Oamaru

Posted by on 26 October 2011 | Comments

Twenty-two young people from sheep producing countries around the world will be vying for top honours at the first-ever World Young Shepherds Challenge (also known as World Ovinpiades) in Oamaru early next month.

Contestants are coming from France, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, United States of America, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

The competition, which is being run by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) aims to foster professional development in young shepherds aged between 18 and 25 years - and to build strong relationships between the sheep production sectors and the next generation of leaders in each of the countries.

The competition had its origins at the International Sheepmeat Forum in Brussels in 2009. The forum was a B+LNZ initiative to look at ways to address the lack of profitability (at that time) in the sheepmeat sector globally and falling sheepmeat consumption and production levels.

Alongside these issues the European delegates identified a strong link between rugby playing countries and sheep production and it triggered the idea to run an inaugural event on the back of the New Zealand Rugby World Cup.

"B+LNZ picked up the idea and from Tuesday 1 November, young shepherds or sheep farmers from 11 countries will be pitting their farming skills against each other," said B+LNZ Chief Executive, Dr Scott Champion.

The two-day competition, developed for B+LNZ by New Zealand Young Farmers, will test a range of sheep farming skills. These include putting up a permanent fence, riding a quad bike safely while navigating an obstacle course, identifying sheep breeds and their breeding values, drafting sheep, accurately counting sheep and drenching sheep. The shepherds will be tested on their knowledge of sheepmeat cuts and there will also be a shearing challenge, with each contestant being required to shear two sheep.

The top prize being contested is a NZ$15,000 international professional development scholarship. New Zealand art is also included in the prize pool.

Dr Champion said the Ovinpiades originated in France and, while they are regularly held in Europe and the UK, this will be the first world event.

The competition is occurring alongside the annual Tri-Lamb Group meeting, also in Oamaru 1-2 November. The Tri-Lamb Group is a collaborative initiative between lamb producer organisations from the United States, Australia and New Zealand with goals to improve the demand for lamb in the US (a key export market for New Zealand and Australia) and strengthen producer profitability in each of the three countries. The meeting is held each year on rotation between the three countries.