You would be hard pressed to wipe the smile off the Squiers family’s faces after the Junior Sheep Handler competition on Wednesday.
In a field of more than 20 young guns from across the State, it was the Quairading girls that came out with the podium finish.
Stella Squiers, 13, took out the top spot in the 13-18 years group, sharing the limelight with her cousin Zarah, 15, who placed second and her sister Danika, who placed third.
It was a proud moment for the trio, who have grown up at agricultural shows and helping in the sheepyards on Stella and Danika’s family farm in the Wheatbelt.
“I feel stoked,” Stella said of the win. “So happy.”
They were each holding Prime Samm rams from the property, with Danika’s cutting her work out for her with a few jumps here and there as the judges circled, observing each of the handlers’ skills.
The three girls are no strangers to handling sheep, each of them volunteering to help stud breeders exhibit their sheep in the ring for judging over the course of the week.
By the time the competition started, they had spent countless hours handling ewes, lambs and rams of several breeds and sporting a range of temperaments.
Their experience shone through above the crowd of students from a number of WA College of Agriculture campuses and Esperance Farm Training Centre.
It is something Stella has always loved doing.
“Ever since I was little I have been watching my dad hold sheep at the Royal show and the Wagin Woolarama — I always begged to hold the sheep,” she said.
“I started out holding lambs when I was nine and the following year I was allowed to hold the big rams.”
She said she was very proud to win with her family by her side, calling her older cousin her “idol”.
In the Junior Handling 12 & Under competition, Bedfordale siblings Asha Kerferd, 7, and Spencer Kerferd, 5, won the blue and red sash.
Asha, who took out first place, was proud as punch as she handled a ewe from her parents’ stud.
Royal Agricultural Society councillor Peter Gelmi, who runs the Jim Horwood Pavilion, said the improvement over the years had “been fantastic”, with 23 entrants in the senior class this year. “This is our fifth year of running the competition, and every year they seem to improve,” he said.
“They are being trained properly and they are listening to what they are being told by the overjudges. It is all about practising their skills and they carry their skills forward.
“It is important they learn how to do this correctly. In a judging event, where the animals are being judged, the way they hold the animal and keep their eye on the judge, could be the difference between a first and a second.
“Their handling skills could cost them a first prize.”
Overjudge and Willow Park Poll Dorset Stud principal Todd Wilson, of Cookernup, said overall they did “very well” and he was pleased with the turnout.