14 Nov 2018

NZ Agricultural Show goes ahead in Christchurch, cows and all

11:09 am on 14 November 2018

Strict controls are in place for cattle exhibitors at Canterbury's A&P Show in Christchurch, in light of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Chris Herbert with Nigel, a 2-year-old Blonde d'Aquitaine bull.

Chris Herbert with Nigel, a 2-year-old Blonde d'Aquitaine bull. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The three-day show, which starts today, is one of New Zealand's largest and oldest A&P shows; about 100,000 people attend each year.

Many agricultural shows have scrapped their cattle sections this year because of the risk posed by the disease, which can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows.

But organisers of the Canterbury event have instead worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries to establish protocols to keep exhibitors' cattle separate.

As Mycoplasma bovis is mainly spread from animal to animal through close contact and by calves drinking infected milk, the show is requiring animals from different herds to be kept two metres apart in pens and in the show ring.

Judges aren't allowed to touch the cows and ribbons can't be placed directly on the animals.

The Canterbury A&P Show Association's Vice President, Chris Herbert, said it had also decided to exclude calf classes from the show.

"You don't know where the milk [the calves are drinking] has come from, they could be fed milk from various places so, from a biosecurity point of view we just put our foot down and said no," he said.

Chris Herbert is a cattle breeder himself and has brought cattle to the show this year.

While attendance was down this year, it would still be the biggest cattle show in the country, Mr Herbert said.

"We're normally around just over 100 beef cattle and I think we're sitting just over 50 ... about 55 beef cattle this year ... which is back, but it's a level of commitment from the exhibitors which is pretty heartening from an A&P perspective," he said.

At the showgrounds the milking machines are running for the three or so dairy cow breeders who have brought cattle - also less than half the number who came last year.

Dean Geddes, a Holsteen-Fresian breeder near Tai Tapu is one of those farmers.

Mr Geddes said the added biosecurity measures and the fact his family had been showing cattle at the event for about 93 years influenced his decision to come.

"It's was a really big decision, I ummed and ahhed [about it].... a third of my income is stock sales ... but MPI and how the show have set it up, I think there's zero risk of picking it up here," Mr Geddes said.

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