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Top judge eager to give back

Kate PollardCountryman

It's hard to imagine but when international livestock judge Grame Hopf was 16 years old, he had been living on the streets of Kings Cross in Sydney for 18 months.

But a chance encounter at the Sydney show changed his world forever.

Wearing a pair of thongs, a T-shirt and shorts, Mr Hopf won a livestock judging competition but because of his attire, was not invited back for the next round.

A then unknown American gentleman came forward and offered to supply clothes for the next day's judging.

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The same person later took him to the United States to study a master's degree in animal anatomy, which was a professional livestock judging course at a leading university.

It's been a long career for Mr Hopf, who has judged more than 600 Australian shows and 180 international shows including dairy and beef cattle, horses, poultry, sheep and dairy goats. He instigated in Australia the practice of giving commentaries to justify livestock placements.

"I've made a lifestyle out of it and a career out of assessment of livestock," Mr Hopf said.

Highlights include being the only person to judge at five World Congresses covering different forms of livestock. And at the Perth Royal Show steer competition, he judged the three live champions as the three carcase champions in correct order.

But just as important as judging is involving young people, including Lachlan Hunter, from Bruce Rock.

The Year 12 student at the WA College of Agriculture in Cunderdin met Mr Hopf last year at the WA Youth Cattle Handlers course and described him as having a wealth of knowledge.

Coming from a sheep and wheat background, Mr Hunter has been mentored by Mr Hopf and judges cattle, Merino and meat sheep, wool and beef cattle.

Next year, he's hoping to go to the US as Mr Hopf's associate judge.

But the international livestock judge is also helping troubled young people and said everyone should be given the opportunity to work with livestock.

"If more people in the community could share the love of livestock, then the whole world would be better off," he said.

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