EIGHTEEN months ago Loka Manu rolled the dice to undertake a school-based traineeship with the Ledger-family run Riverwood Illawarras at Carters Ridge, just south of Gympie.
On August 14 the teenager was named Queensland's premier dairy cattle young judge, first capturing the gong as the RNA's best finalist and then sealing the State award over Clinton Kier (Gympie), Jerry English (Malanda), Krystal Wardrop (Kingaroy) and Thomas Wade (Gatton).
The win, which he says was unexpected, grants Mr Manu the opportunity to represent Queensland in New Zealand next year.
"Judging is certainly something I have been very determined about for the last 12 months and the win was very unexpected coming straight into the RNA and then getting called up as the champion for state," he said.
"I am very excited about the future and hopefully I can do Queensland proud in New Zealand.
"Dairy farming is something I am very passionate about and I do hope that everything goes well and I can stay in the dairy industry even though we are going through these hard times."
Steven Ledger remembers determination and an eagerness to learn was clearly evident when a "raw" Mr Manu arrived at Riverwood Illawarras.
"He is a keen young fella and very capable and picks up things quite quickly," said Mr Ledger, who runs the family business with wife Cassie and parents Grant and Betty.
"He was always watching and asking questions and he's been to a few youth camps where they learn bits and pieces. A few months back he went to North Queensland to help prepare some cattle for a sale and took to it.
"I have no doubt he will keep improving in every aspect."
John Cochrane, Kenilworth Dairies, who was the overseeing judge at the competition, hopes authorities reactivate education programs to help inform younger generations about the industry.
"I think the industry is in good hands with these young people. We need the younger generations coming through to hold the dairy industry in good stead," Mr Cochrane said.
"But we have to find ways to educate people about the business. We used to have judging schools on weekends to teach young adults to assess a cow and what they need to look for.
"Farmers doesn't have the money or the time to do this and that's disappointing but does not mean it shouldn't happen because we need to inform and educate the young ones because they are the future."