9 Nov 2016

Christchurch gears up for the A&P Show

9:23 am on 9 November 2016

The country comes to town over the next three days for the Canterbury A&P Show in Christchurch.

Some 100,000 are expected through the gates of the 154th show starting today, with the big day on Friday's Canterbury Anniversary Day holiday.

Michael Gilbert

Michael Gilbert, 22, has been going to the show all his life, like his father before him. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

More space has been made available this year for the increased number of dairy cows being exhibited.

Michael Gilbert's family has been farming Jersey cows in Canterbury for more than 100 years and he's proud to be showing off the breed once again this year.

The 22 year old said he'd been coming to the show all his life.

"My dad's been here just about every year of his life. My great-grandfather started showing Jersies in our family in the 1920s."

When his family started farming dairy cows near Rakaia in 1986 people said they were crazy.

"When my parents moved down to mid-Canterbury we were sort of a really dry area and a lot of people said you wouldn't be able to dairy farm there.

Now, just about every farm was dairy farm. "Obviously an increase in the efficiency of irrigation has made a big difference... it's pretty different sort of scenery down there now."

While things are slowly starting to improve in the dairy sector thanks to increases in the milk price, two years of drought is continuing to take a toll on sheep farmers in North Canterbury.

With so many Corriedale sheep sold off by struggling farmers, this year the show had to look further afield to high country stations to find enough sheep for the all important shearing competition, said Canterbury A&P Show president Warwick James.

"It's quite a wee way in there so it's challenging to get those sheep dry, get them on trucks and then get them home again in good order. So it's quite a mission to pull them from that distance."

Stephanie Mouat travelled up from Invercargill with her seven-year-old son Blake to enable him to compete on his palomino pony Dewey.

"This is the third year in a row we've come up and we've met some great people. These ones that Blake's riding with, we met them at Christchurch show two years ago and you know you just keep in touch with people you meet, and it's really good."

Stephanie Mouat with sons Blake and Jayden

Stephanie Mouat, with sons Blake and Jayden, travelled up to the show from Invercargill. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

A crowd favourite in recent years has been the maternity ward where 80 pregnant ewes give birth over the three days.

Richard Lemon is in charge of making sure they all arrive in time, with a little bit of human help.

He said crowds six deep gathered while the ewes were giving birth.

"There's trepidation for a bit, you know they're wondering is it going to happen or how it's going to happen and then all of a sudden they're so elated and the smiles and the applause and they're just happy it's happened and they've witnessed it."

Other highlights at this year's show include a final qualifying round for shearers hoping to make it on to the New Zealand team to compete at next year's world champs and an auction where $7 million of wool will be sold.

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