The annual Lawrence Lamb Competition is one of those quintessential rural Kiwi events – a chance for farmers to demonstrate what they do best, raise some money for community causes, catch up and quaff a beer at the end of the day.
Russell Robertson started it. Local farmer and a volunteer at the event for years Geoff Blackmore reckons it would have been in the early 1990s.
“That wouldn’t be far wrong,” Russell’s son Dave agrees. “I remember picking up lambs for Dad when it kicked off because I was working for him. I wasn’t married then and I got hitched 36 years ago, so back it up 36 years and you wouldn’t be far away.”
Russell was “a bit of an entrepreneur, thought outside the square – loved his farming and that’s what he knew and understood,” Dave says. So, he hit upon a competition where farmers could enter pens of three lambs for judging (under 40kg; 40-50kg; Open), and give away the proceeds from one or more of them to the cricket club. Most give away all three, Geoff says.
Later it expanded out to include the Lawrence Rugby Club and at this year’s event, in late March, proceeds from the donated lambs went to cricket, rugby, netball, swimming and even the local hospital.
Dave says his father loved sport but he had an enlarged heart and died in his sixties playing bowls, “…a good ‘out’; he’d have hated to be in a wheelchair or whatever”.
The Russell Robertson Memorial Trophy for the overall winning pen carries a bit of local kudos, and the stud farms and others chase it. But Dave says he particularly appreciates the farmers “who would love to win, know they’re never gonna win but they still put lambs up”.
There were more than 60 pens judged at the March event, which means a very healthy injection for the local clubs when the payment from the works comes in. Geoff says dry conditions meant the quality was probably “a wee bit back” this year but not by much; “some guys kept some good lambs for it, which they always do”.
For the record: Paul Wilson gets to hold the Russell Robertson Memorial Trophy for 2022 as winner of the Open (Terminal) class and for entering the single heaviest lamb (80kg). Also in terminal, Matt Ponsonby won the Under-50 title and Dave Robertson the Under-40. In W/F Jason Lyders had the best pen of lightweights; Warwick Howie the best middleweights and Ben Young the best Open pen.