18 Oct 2018

Lambs centre stage as calves a no-show

10:00 am on 18 October 2018

Lambs took their opportunity to hog centre stage at Ngaere School's "show day" in Taranaki yesterday with families being asked to keep calves on the farm in the wake of the Mycoplasma bovis scare.

Ngaere School's "show day" in Taranaki.

Junior lamb competitors wait their turn. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Rural schools throughout the province have taken MPI advice not to go ahead with calf shows and risk spreading the debilitating disease further.

About 40 lambs and 50 pets ranging from the conventional dogs and cats through to roosters, goats, an Indian parrot no less - and even a pet rock - were preened and paraded in front of the judges at Ngaere School.

Their handlers were variously put through their paces and quizzed about their pet's dietary and exercise habits before rosettes and ribbons were handed out.

Principal Megan England said pet and show days were an integral part of being a rural school.

"Look at their faces, it's a heck of a lot of fun," she said.

Briath Hodge, 8, and Choochoo.

Briath Hodge, 8, and Choochoo. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"They spend two days before pet day doing their craft and today they come along with their pet and it's a lot of fun. We do the judging and they the kids do stalls so it's also a little bit of a fundraiser.

Ms England said the event had not lost too much lustre with the canning of the calf section.

"Not really. We've probably got 150 children in our school and we've probably got 95 to 100 entries, lambs and pets. Some of traditional calf people have not brought pets or lambs but a lot of them have."

Katlyn England, no relation, had entered the family labrador Ruby but she was disappointed there was no calf show.

"Because I spent a lot of hard work on it last year and I was hoping to do it again this year. I like practising and feeling like I'm on the farm."

Katlyn's mum and sharemilker, Holly Smith, said as long as the children were learning and having fun sacrificing the calves was worth it.

Overall champion Celia Gribble, 8, and Popcorn.

Overall champion Celia Gribble, 8, and Popcorn. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"For us, we have 800 cows so to protect them if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

"It's such an unknown at the moment and being 50/50 it's our whole livelihood, our whole asset so obviously we don't want to risk that."

Over in the general pet section, Braith Hodge, 8, had Choochoo, an Alexandrine parakeet, perched on his shoulder.

He was busy practising his patter for the judges.

"He always faces the wind, where the wind is blowing. He does not eat meat. He eats seeds, vegetables and fruit."

While Choochoo seemed in safe hands, the pressure was on Zeth Blair's pekin rooster Jeffery to win a ribbon.

"Well he's a bit bitey and he's not that nice. If he wins mum might keep him for a little bit more. If he loses, he's getting his head chopped off."

Zeth Blair's 'bitey' pekin rooster Jeffery was heading for the chopping block if it didn't take a prize.

Zeth Blair's 'bitey' pekin rooster Jeffery was heading for the chopping block if it didn't take a prize. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Head lamb judge Nick Brown of Federated Farmers was enjoying the woolly creatures moment in the limelight.

"They are definitely star of the show because there's just no calves and it's good to see Ngaere School having a pets' day with lambs here because I know a lot of other schools have cancelled their lamb and calf days alltogether which is such a shame because bovis doesn't affect sheep," he said.

"And this is such an important thing for kids. Growing up it is something you remember."

It was certainly memorable for Celia Gribble, 8, who took out best overall lamb with Popcorn.

And as ever, the secret to her success - hard work.

"I don't really know [why I won]. It's just because I spent a long time brushing him and he looks quite good."

Alizae Greenall, 6 and her pet rock.

Alizae Greenall, 6 and her pet rock. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin