Loka will be the Queensland representative at the National Young Judges finals held at the Royal Queensland Show. We caught up with his to learn about his devotion to all things dairy.
I had always known dairy has been a great passion of mine. I originate from Taranaki New Zealand on the west coast of the North Island where I was born into the dairy industry. I have been in the dairy and milking cows since before I could walk and spent a lot of my childhood on my aunty and uncle’s farm.
These days I’m currently working my way to herd management and in ten years I’d like to still be dairy farming. I started to compete out of pure love and passion for dairy cows. I absolutely love cows which made me passionate about competing. As a young child I was in and out of foster and family homes which were quite rough. The dairy industry was my therapy. Without it I would have no idea where it would be.
My uncle, Kane Bretherton, in New Zealand really got me into the dairy industry since a young age. He taught me a lot of what I know today, especially in the dairy. In 2018, I moved to Queensland from Melbourne where I went to school to work with my grandfather Simon Durdle. I was offered a full time job with Steven Ledger (a former national young judges competitions) who milks and shows a herd of Illawarra dairy cows who noticed my passion for the dairy industry. He invited me to my first show and I instantly fell in love with showing cows. While I was at Malanda educational dairy camp I was fortunate to work with Colin Daley (Far North Queensland Holstein breeder and judge) and Phillip Henske (former Holstein Australia classifier) who taught me about the parts of dairy cows and what an ideal cow should look like. They both dramatically impacted me and my knowledge of dairy cows.
I’ve been following local and royal shows for the last three years as a dairy cattle exhibitor and fitter. I’ve even taken cows to Brisbane Royal in 2019. Steven Ledger introduced me to showing cattle in 2018 when I undertook a traineeship with the Ledger family. Steve, who has previously won the dairy cattle judge national title, was a huge influence on judging cattle. I started judging dairy cattle at the Gympie show in 2018. I was fortunate enough to attend a judging school in Malanda, in far north Queensland which, with my mentors, have created my success. Between the 18/19 show season I attended that educational dairy camp which taught me an incredible amount about judging dairy cows. I started competing for my love of dairy cattle which I now take very seriously.
The best moment of my showing career was at Brisbane Royal in 2019. I was lucky enough to win the youth team challenge, RNA and State young judges, as well as placing third in the state paraders competition and then winning reserve junior champion with a Illawarra heifer during the dairy show.
My most embarrassing moment would have been at International Dairy Week. I was parading a heifer in the sale in front of thousands of people both in person and on the live stream. The heifer was spooked and jumped. I only let go of the heifer because everyone told me to but I had been thrown into the auctioneers table which caused the front of it to collapse on me while I was on top of pot plants. I was pretty badly hurt but I just got up and wiped the sawdust off my jeans.
My favourite local show is Maleny, but my favourite interstate show is International Dairy Week held in Tatura in Victoria where the best cows the country have to offer compete. I absolutely love working with world class cows and also the atmosphere.