Show tradition under threat

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By DAVID HILL

The future of a Kiwi agricultural tradition that dates back more than century is unclear as A&P associations weigh the risks of running cattle classes following the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

Cattle exhibitors are being urged to proceed with caution as efforts continue to eradicate the disease.

Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) delegates decided at their conference last week to leave it up to individual show committees to decide whether to proceed with cattle sections, provided they can work within Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) guidelines.

“There was some good discussion and there were a range of views expressed,” RAS chief executive Debbie Cameron says. “Some shows are not sure they can successfully run a cattle section with the measures in place, while other shows are saying ‘we can do that’ and ‘we will talk to exhibitors’.”

The conference received presentations from MPI officials, DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand representatives.

Mrs Cameron says delegates are supportive of what MPI is trying to do, including eradication.

RAS central districts vice-chairman Philip Worthington, of Fernside, near Rangiora, says a range of views have been expressed by government officials, including whether eradication is possible. The situation remains fluid, he says.

“We decided while it’s still such a fluid situation, we couldn’t do more than to urge shows to act with caution.”

While most of the spring shows last year opted to proceed with cattle sections, including the Canterbury and Northern (Rangiora) shows, many autumn shows cancelled cattle competitions.

The Oxford A&P Show in March opted to have a cattle display and calves were provided for the junior handling and judging competitions, but all cattle came from one breeder.

In contrast, the nearby Malvern A&P Show at Sheffield in March went ahead with its cattle section “and had a really good turnout”, Mr Worthington noted.

He said the Canterbury A&P Association was due to hold an exhibitors’ meeting last night, while the Northern (Rangiora) A&P Association committee is due to meet on July 4, where the fate of the cattle sections will be discussed.

“My experience is many shows will leave it up to exhibitors to decide whether or not they want to show their cattle. If 90 percent say they won’t come, it makes the decision pretty
clear.”

Every other cattle-breeding country, except Norway, has been managing Mycoplasma bovis for decades and cattle shows have continued.

MPI officials, speaking at Amberley last week, said the bacterial disease was spread by “prolonged exposure” to an infected animal, meaning contact with animals in the show ring presented a low level of risk.

Mr Worthington says the Canterbury A&P Association’s cattle committee is considering its options, including having gaps between pens containing animals entered by different
breeders.

“The show movement is a very health-conscious movement and it was well ahead of the Government in managing the threat of Tb (tuberculosis).”