4 Jul 2018

Cows banned in agricultural shows over M Bovis fears

From Checkpoint, 6:25 pm on 4 July 2018

Agricultural shows are making the tough decision to scrap their cattle sections due to the threat posed by Mycoplasma bovis.

Country kids with their calves and breeders wanting to show off their bulls have been asked to stay home this year - the first time many can remember not being able to take part in the biggest day of the year on the rural calendar.

Mid-Canterbury's Ellesmere A&P Show joined a long list of those not welcoming cattle this year.

Its president, Trevor Hobson, who farmed beef cattle and wintered dairy cows, said an M bovis outbreak was the last thing those showing stock at the show wanted to see.

"A lot of these bloodlines have been going on for generations and so if you got a directive to have them all slaughtered it would be pretty devastating."

Championship day at Manawatu.

Championship day at Manawatu. Photo: Supplied


Mr Hobson said it was the first time he could recall cattle not being a part of the October show which was the most important day of the year for farmers in the district.

"We are the first spring show in Canterbury, people have been very busy all spring with calving and lambing and it's actually a nice day out for these people to have when the pressure comes off a bit and they can actually have a day out and catch up with people again."  

A lot of work went in to preparing stock for the show which was often used as a way for breeders to market their bulls.

"There's a bit of competition there which is all good healthy stuff. It's an opportunity to showcase what people have got and a lot of these people are stud breeders and they are looking to sell bulls and this is a showcase for their businesses."

Ellesmere joins the Ashburton, Southland and Mackenzie shows in cancelling its cattle section this year.

All of these districts were home to M bovis infected farms.

The president of the Ashburton show, David Butterick, said the risk was a child showing a calf might struggle to keep it away from others on show and inadvertently spread the disease.

"We were a bit disappointed. We had thought that possibly we could run something if precautions were taken but the people running it decided that the risk was still too great."

Championship Day in Manawatu.

Championship Day in Manawatu. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Even in Manawatu, where so far only one farm had been declared to be infected, the childrens' calf and lamb show known as Championship Day, had decided to cancel its calf section.

Involving 23 schools, the competition had taken place every year since 1930, and this would be the first year calves had not been welcome.

The president of the Manawatu Oroua Boys and Girls Agricultural Club, Judi Driscole, said it was a quintessential part of growing up in the region.

"It's a really big commitment for them from July right through until November because these children pick their animals quite often in these coming holidays. Some children they have a name first and then they go and find an animal to suit that name, it's just amazing."

But she said the risk of an infected calf helping to spread M bovis was just not worth taking.

"It is very sad", she said.

The Rangiora and South Canterbury shows had yet to decide if they would include cattle on this year's programme.   

The iconic Canterbury A&P Show, one of the biggest in the country, declined to comment.