12 Nov 2015

Biggest A&P show in full swing

4:33 pm on 12 November 2015

Canterbury's A&P Show is in full swing and about 100,000 people are expected to have visited by the time it wraps up tomorrow night.

Georgia Avery helps out her dad, Jason, at his concession stand at the Canterbury A& P show.

Georgia Avery helps out her dad, Jason, at his concession stand at the Canterbury A& P show. Photo: RNZ/Rachel Graham

The show is easily New Zealand's biggest, with organisers saying it is about three times as large as its next closest rival.

The city farmyard, with its petting zoo for children, is always one of the most popular features at the show and this year has been rejigged to create more space.

Nine-year-old Milla Harper, who was visiting with her brother and mother, struggled to chose just one favourite animal.

"I like the wee baby chicks, and the guinea pigs, and the wee sheep and stuff, and I like the ponies and the horsies, and the piggies," she said.

Richard Perkins, who is in charge of the City Farmland, said preparations started in May.

Most of the smaller animals, such as the rabbits, chickens and ducks, came from the local Arion Park, while the lambs and calves were people's pets which were borrowed for the three days of the show. All had been hand-reared so were used to dealing with people, he said.

But changes in the farming industry were making it harder to secure pet lambs to borrow.

"There are less people who want to rear pet lambs, and the sheep flock is reducing and the dairy herds increasing."

Reasonably good weather in the lead up to the show also meant there were fewer orphaned lambs, which were often the ones which ended up as pets, he said.

Near the City Farmyard is the sheep maternity ward, full of sheep who are expected to give birth during the three days of the show.

This display has been part of the show for the past 15 years but this year was subject to criticism on social media, with claims it was cruel to expose them while they gave birth and that the lambs were induced to ensure they arrived on time.

Operating manager Dougal Thomas said the lambs were not induced but the sheep were given fertility treatment about five months ago to ensure the lambs arrived at just the right time.

He did not believe the sheep were at all bothered by giving birth with an audience of people watching.

"We have the sheep here 12 months a year so they are very used to the people," Mr Thomas said.

"Obviously it's a public park and a lot of people are walking around the whole time. So they become very domesticated, very tame.

"People don't faze them at all. They are well looked after. There is a man down there watching them all the time and there is a vet on site."

As well as the usual livestock displays, wood chopping and show jumping, the show is also a chance for companies to show off their latest innovations to the farming sector.

Xaver Fruehschuetz, from Slopemowing, with his remote control mower.

Xaver Fruehschuetz, from Slopemowing, with his remote control mower. Photo: RNZ/Rachel Graham

Xaver Fruehschuetz, from Slopemowing, said his remote controlled mowers and mulchers could not only make the job easier for farmers but also save lives.

"It means that we can use this equipment for vegetation control on steep terrain that would be very high risk for any other person or equipment. They can cover all of that in the safest way you can."

Glen Taylor, from ATF Services, was showing a freestanding portable security system which he said could provide peace of mind to those operating in isolated areas.

The solar power system provided alarms and lights and was fully monitored; people could monitor it live on their phone as long as they had reception, Mr Taylor said.

Kam Mock, meanwhile, was involved in one of the more unusual aspects of the show: rabbit show jumping.

"This is literally rabbit FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) show jumping, same rules apply. You have timed events on eight to 12 show-jumping jumps with rabbits on leads."

Anyone planning on heading to the show tomorrow is in luck, with a display of this niche sport on in the afternoon.

Kam Mock with Midnight and Dolly bird, her two show jumping rabbit.

Kam Mock with Midnight and Dolly bird, her two show jumping rabbit. Photo: RNZ/Rachel Graham

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