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Drought has impact on Young Farmer contest

The worst drought in 22 years has curtailed some of the tests that were due to be set for contestants in the Taranaki-Manawatu regional final of the Wrightson Agmardt Young Farmer Contest.

Convenor Matthew McDonald said that with a fire ban in place, the committee had rethought some of the practical programme, which will be held at the Stratford A & P Showgrounds on March 29. "It has limited us a bit but we still think it will be a very challenging day for the eight finalists."

The experts are tipping three Manawatu contenders as the front runners. All three finished in the top four last year and with last year's winner Mike Cranstone ineligible this time, Ben Allomes, Janet Ryan and Andrew Hoggard are the early favourites.

Allomes, a former dairy farm manager turned sharemilker, is expected to perform strongly in all sections of the contest.

Ryan, from Taranaki, the only woman in the final, combines two careers - managing the family dairy farm with her brother and part-time district nursing in Inglewood.

Cranstone, who is now the regional manager of the event, predicts that Hoggard, a sharemilker, will score strongly in general knowledge.

Stephen Dudin, a sharemilker from Okato in Taranaki, has had a few years off the Young Farmers' competition circuit but has enough experience to push strongly for the title.

Phil Talbot, a fencing contractor from Otairi Station at Hunterville, is competing for the first time and Cranstone said he was one to watch for in the practical events.

Mike Will, who runs a mixed farm near Palmerston North, Ross Collier, a Taihape sheep and beef farmer, and veteran finalist Andrew Sulzberger, a Taranaki dairy farmer, round out the field.

The regional final is one of the key events being held in Stratford this year to celebrate the town's 125th anniversary.

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