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An interview with international waterfowl judge Graham Hicks

Graham was out here staying on ‘The Ridge’ a few weeks ago while he was out from the UK to judge the waterfowl at The Goulburn All State Festival of Waterfowl. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his time here, and here are his answers.
Mick:

Graham, welcome to Australia. What did you come back to Australia for, after five years?

Graham:

Well, I’m sorry I left it so long, but I was going to come back a couple years ago. Thought I gotta come back and see how the birds have improved. A lot of people kept telling me about Peel Ridge’s Rouens on the internet, on Facebook … Of all the winning and going on. So I wanted to come back. So I rang Michael Peel in January and said, “Can I come back in May?” And he said, “Yeah, I’d love to have you back.” I booked me flight and told them I was coming back, and then he said, “I’ve got a show I’m judging at. They want you to do the specials.” So that’s how it all come about.

Mick:

And how was the show, Graham? This was the Goulburn All State Festival of Waterfowl .

Graham:

I thought the show was excellent, well run, great committee, and a lovely pre-show meal. When we got there in the morning, nearly 600 entries, some strong classes, how the breeders had improved in five years, I was really impressed.

Mick:

Yeah. And some of the good conversations you had there with the different breeders … You find some interesting characters there with their waterfowl?

Graham:

Yeah I did. People were coming up and wanting me to give them my thoughts, my English thoughts of their stock. You know, they’d been judged and then wanted me to go through them again and see if I agreed, or give them my advice on what they’ve got in the show.

Mick:

So once you got through the judging there, was it a reasonably long day? When you’d found the best bird at the show, what were your thoughts on your best bird and reserved champion as well?

Graham:

Well as the morning unravelled and the judging was being done, there was a couple of birds that did stand out pretty well from the start. There was the Roman crested goose which I thought that was gonna take some beating. And then as we got into the specials, the section winners had been announced and another bird rose to the top in the ducks. So we had two good birds, which made it quite easy really. In the end it was Danny Ben’s Indian Runner Drake which took the bird of show crown and it was a worthy winner.

Mick:

Yeah. That’s good. They certainly looked well and they’ll well put down there. Now there’s been a lot of hype after the show. People are getting excited and they’re talking about a national Australia waterfowl show. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it’d be quite successful here in Australia? The breeders seem to be excited.

Graham:

Well, with the enthusiasm that I’ve seen at Goulburn, I think it’s a good time … everybody to try and get all the states together and bring all the water fowl to one place. I think it’ll be fantastic.

Mick:

Yeah. And then once we finished Goulburn and that, we did a bit of travelling. We went to Uralla, went up to Armadale. We had a look at some leghorns there of Grahame Sharps and Brendan Sharps there, compared to English birds and things like that. You got any thoughts on those white leghorns?

Graham:

Yeah, you had bantam game and you had leghorns. An amazing type, leghorns, and they were large. Possibly the English wouldn’t like them so big but I mean, fantastic type, very stylish and I though they were great. The game bantam they had there were, you know, nothing special type for english …

Mick:

So then once we left there we went over and saw some Australian games, Pitt games. Graham Hoff, he’s a recognised judge around the world, one of our major judges here in Australia, covers all sorts of livestock, but he gets quite wide across waterfowl, soft feather, head feather fowls in Australia. And he had quite a collection there around his property.

Graham:

Graham Hoff’s, the breeding pen that he showed us with the 3 generations … Fantastic style, type birds, yeah pretty impressed. I can see why they say he’s got the best game in Australia.

Mick:

Then of course we came back down and we’ve been at … You’ve been stationed at Peel Ridge and you’ve obviously gone through the birds there. I think we got through 102 Rouens you said, I didn’t bother counting but, we went through all the geese, we didn’t handle them all we handled the grey Toulouse and the white Toulouse when we wormed and drenched them there the other day but we certainly had a good look about at birds you saw there. Your thoughts on that perhaps?

Graham:

Well, five years on, Peel Ridge birds had come … Fantastic improvements, top quality. Pleased to see the white Toulouse had got standardised in Australia. That’s something I’ve not seen, certainly not in England but around the world there isn’t any so that’s good to see. And the Rouens they were so much bigger and so much typier and I had great fun grading them into 3 groups for Peel Ridge to have a breeding season with them.

Mick:

Yeah, we certainly had a good time there, been out here a fortnight. You’re heading back to England with some stories for your breeders back there, and we’re hoping to see you here, you don’t want to leave it as long this time. It’s 5 years since you were here before and you’re keen to get back. I think it must be the good weather and the good company.

Graham:

Yeah, I’m definitely not gonna leave it 5 years. See if we can find a couple of weeks spare and come over to the Sydney Royal, 2018 would be lovely. I just say thanks to everybody that I’ve managed to get to, and the company and talk to, so thank you Australia for a great 2 weeks.

Mick:

We certainly enjoyed having you and feedback from the breeders, they certainly enjoyed picking your brain and you were certainly a big help to a lot of breeders when they asked questions on there birds and different things. Okay have a good trip home Grahame.

Graham:

Thank you very much.

***POST UPDATE***

Graham – Just following up from our discussion on my visit around Australia. We forgot to say about, we went to see the Cobbitty Gobbler Sergio to look at the bourbon red turkeys and …

Obviously, five years ago we went up there and seen what he’d done. Fantastic. Great colour. Fell in love with a bronze female he had, which was absolutely beautiful. Had to hold it, and got it out of the pen before Sergio even came out of the house. Yeah, fantastic. Keep going Serge. Doing a wonderful job. Look forward to seeing what you breed from this year’s selection.

We went to see Geoff Potts and we sorted out his Indian Runners. They were very, very good. I really did like the White Indian Runners. Great heads, great height, good depth of build. Good straight line from top of the skull. Top of the eye was in the top of the skull. Great. No gullies on the back. Really, really, really impressed with them.

Yeah, and of course we went to Bert Hewitt’s property. Absolutely amazing yard setups. Lots of big sheds. Lots of fowl. Some of them were English imports from that big import that he did. The waterfowl weren’t as up to what I’d seen, but potential there, breeding stock was good. I was impressed with some of the chickens. Great setup of all the aviaries in all the sheds. Yeah, he’s spent a lot of money. I’m sure he’ll have a good time. He’s got a lot more land he was going to develop and it was good. The guinea fowl, well. 500 guinea fowl running around, what a noise. That was an eye-opener. He said I could stay there a couple of days. Now we’re sorting stuff out, and perhaps next time I’ll go over and spend some time up there.

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