10 May 2002

Shows must go on, say determined exhibitors

Shows are back with this weekends Newark and Notts

the first major on the calendar. But with high biosecurity

measures in place what should exhibitors and visitors

expect? Marianne Curtis speaks to Newark and Notts

chief executive and one of the shows exhibitors

THE biggest disappointment for Holstein exhibitor Dianne Steeples when she embarks on this years show season is that the general public will not be allowed access to the cattle lines.

"We usually spend ages talking to the public and for many it is the only hands on experience they have with animals. It provides a valuable opportunity to talk to grannies, mothers and children about farming, cattle and showing."

Restricted access to animals is just one of the many differences livestock exhibitors will encounter during this years show season. Before stock even reach the showfield, careful planning is necessary to ensure it is allowed to attend.

"We recently bought a cow, but cannot take delivery of her because it would trigger a 20-day standstill meaning we couldnt show cattle at the Newark and Notts," says Mrs Steeples.

Had the familys show team been in isolation for 20 days before the show, bringing the cow home to Fedwells Farm, Warkton, Northants, would not have been a problem. But Mrs Steeples is keen to avoid having to isolate animals for as long as possible.

"We had an isolation facility approved by DEFRA last week, but using it would create such a lot of extra work. Before entering it we would have to change overalls, disinfect boots and keep food separate, even though it can come from the same on-farm store.

"Although they can go through the same parlour as the rest of the herd, show cows must also be milked separately. Using the isolation facility would create an extra 2-3 hours work/day and Id probably need a new washing machine to cope with all the overalls."

It is likely the isolation facility will need to be used later in the season when there is less than 20 days between shows. "We expect to show cattle at about 10 shows this year and there will be times when cattle have to go into the isolation unit."

While she is adamant the UK must be kept foot-and-mouth free, Mrs Steeples believes such measures to be over the top. "We either have F&M or not and the regulations should be all or nothing. I hope someone soon sees sense and realises most of these requirements will do little to stop it spreading if it is about."

But despite this years difficulties and uncertainties, she is determined that Cramar Holsteins will grace the showring this season. Cattle from the 100-cow herd have been on the show scene for the past 20 years and have a string of dairy interbreed championships behind them, including reserve dairy interbreed champion at Newark and Notts in 2000, says Mrs Steeples.

"Showing provides camaraderie and a shop window for our cattle with 60% of our stock sales, including heifers, cows, bulls and embryos resulting from it.

"This government seems intent on driving farming underground, but we wont be beaten. Exhibitors must stand up and be counted. Although show societies have lost money, those such as Newark and Notts have been determined to have a go and it is up to farmers to support them."

One family determined to show cattle this year are the Steeples, whose heifer Cramar Goldust Torch won the dairy interbreed title at the Lincolnshire Show in 2000.

&#8226 Stringent biosecurity measures.

&#8226 No public contact with livestock.

&#8226 Determined exhibitors.