Sorting out the good from the fowl
HAVE you ever wondered exactly what goes on during the judging of the animals at Ipswich Show?
Well, we at the Queensland Times wondered the same thing.
How do you say one duck is better than another duck, or one chicken is better than someone else's chook?
We asked the man charged with this massive responsibility to give everyone an idea of what goes on, and it turned out to be Somerset councillor and former state member Sean Choat, who revealed he's been involved in the waterfowl community since he was 15.
As chief steward, it is his job to decide which bird gets to take home the cake.
Not literally of course, that would make them fat.
"The best way to describe how we pick a winner is quite straightforward," Mr Choat said.
"Of course, you must have a keen trained eye, but there are standards for each breed. You may have a duck, but then there are several breeds and they all have standards to meet. Some breeds came about for show purposes, others for laying eggs or meat. Then there are other ducks called 'call ducks' which were used for hunting.
"The breeds we have today mostly came out of the Victorian era, and those standards apply to all types of poultry. Breeders know what the finer points are. They will see things that most people don't, for example the shape of the head, the colour of the beak. The closer they are to the absolute perfect specimen will decide the winner. It's just about applying the Darwin theory when you're looking at these animals."
Sean loves the fact he will again be at the Ipswich Show in 2018.
"I'm a poultry person, always have been, and that includes pigeons as well. I'm known in the community for it. I was asked last year by the show society if I would act as chief steward for the water fowl. I said I'd do it for a year, as I live in Somerset these days, but it was something I'm passionate about.
"Last year was such a success they dobbed me in for another year and I want to be supportive of the society, so here we are again. I'm really happy to be involved."
Sean has been passionate about birds since he was a teenager and grew up surrounded by them. Some he has kept with him to this very day, and now he lives on acreage, noise is no longer an issue.
"Sadly, I don't have the time to race pigeons any more, but I do keep them. I have a family of pigeons that won a race from Broken Hill for me in 1984 when I was just 15, so I've kept them going with me for all this time.
"Again this year I'll be looking at many breeds of ducks and geese, with many variations. Most people might think they look the same, but to the trained eye they are all different. You judge by sight and handling. There is a science to it, that's for sure. Some people may selectively breed to get certain traits. It can be difficult to do, often you get genes in a bird that are so hard to get out.
"There is a love of competition, as if you are a highly regarded breeder with awards then your birds will be sought after nationally. It's a small community, but everyone knows everyone and you'll get a good reputation ... It's the same as racehorses. Some lines are fast, others are for show.
"If I wanted to start breeding chooks or ducks, then I'm going to go to a breeder who knows their stuff."