In a manner of speaking, Julie Howden has turned a pig’s ear into a silk purse. On Saturday, Ms Howden of Riversdale and her coloured Romney ram Stuart won the champion woolbreed sheep section at the Wyndham A&P Show. Ms Howden said she began breeding black and coloured sheep almost by chance. When she was a teenager her father David bought some Romney rams from a prominent breeder. Unfortunately, the rams produced black lambs at a time when white wool was fetching a good price and there was not much demand for black wool. Her father was very unhappy as he drove around the lambing beat.
‘‘I can still hear him swearing — 50% of them were black,’’ she said.
However, Ms Howden took a liking to the coloured sheep and started breeding them.
‘‘I sort of fell into it.’’
When she was 21-years-old she bought a coloured sheep stud to add to the flock she had.
She had been entering sheep in the show since she was 9-years-old.
It was her 40th year of entering the competition, and she was very pleased with the result. She thought it was ‘‘pretty fitting’’ to win the champion woolbred exhibit. She bought Stuart from Stuart and Sue Albrey of Waimate in 2020.
The ram was a ‘‘big, bold, alert ram’’. ‘‘He’s got a very even fleece for handcraft.’’
Stuart also placed first in several other sections, including top black and coloured ram over 18 months section, and the supreme champion of the black and coloured sheep.
Ms Howden is the New Zealand Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association president.
She has a flock of 45 breeding ewes, an adult ram and five younger rams.
‘‘I produce for wool for a market and I also sell rams to other black and coloured breeders.’’
A well-prepared coloured fleece could sell for about $20 a kg, she said.
Mimihau woman Janice Bulling won first prize with her fruit cake.
It was the ninth time in the last 12 years she had placed first.
Mrs Bulling said the cake was the one she made for Christmas.
‘‘I just make sure I’ve got my Christmas cake made ahead so I can bring it to the show.’’
Most years the cake won the dark fruit cake section but this year the judge moved it into the light fruit competition, Mrs Bulling said.
Usually she kept half of the cake she entered in the show and sold the other half, however, this year the person who bought the cake wanted a whole one.There was nothing special about the recipe which was a standard fruit cake where the butter and sugar are creamed together and then eggs are added.However, the cake was cooked at a low temperature for about seven hours.
‘‘Cook it slowly — I think that might be the thing.’’
She lined the 28cm tin with newspaper and put the cake into an oven heated to 130degC. She kept an eye on it, reducing the temperature of the oven during the cooking time.
‘‘[I’ve] got to be home all day to cook it,’’ Mrs Bulling said.
She iced the cake with almond icing and then spread brandy butter icing on top.
A&P society president Mike Henderson said there were 1100 entries in the sheep, cattle and horse classes.
‘‘Entries were up this year from what I understand, which is pleasing,’’ he said.
The day had gone well, after missing last year’s event due to Covid-19.
He had received good feedback about the number of children’s activities available, he said.