Dairy cattle make a welcome return to the annual Horowhenua AP&I Show next week after biosecurity fears forced them to stay at home on the farm at the corresponding event last year.

Apart from the intervention of world war, last year was the first time cattle were absent since the show began in 1906, and their return came with upgraded hygiene protocols behind the scenes.

Chief steward Trevor Latimer said it was strange having a show with no dairy cattle last year.

"It just didn't feel right for the likes of me," he said.

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Latimer said this year show would follow a series of guidelines set down by the Ministry for Primary Industries which he said were best practice to mitigate any potential spread of disease.

Wash bays would be divided to keep cattle apart and would be sprayed with disinfectant, while the two days of the show would be split so that stock that was milking was shown one day and all dry stock the next.

It also included shifting the tiered viewing stands away from the stabling area. He said it was best practice for health and safety reasons, too, not to have the cattle walking in and around the public.

In years gone by, massive bull cattle requiring more than one handler were on show, but he said these days it was important to ensure that any potential risk for show-goers was identified and minimised.

"You can't have anyone getting kicked," he said.

"Not only that, you have people walking through where the animals are, and you might get prams covered in ..."

Bulls were less common in recent times with the advent of artificial breeding practices.

For Latimer the dairy show continued a family involvement spanning decades, as he had shown cattle himself as a young man in the 1980s.

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His father Ron Latimer, a farmer from Oroua Downs, was an exhibitor for many years with his Holstein Friesian, and this year his granddaughter Oceieana, 10, would be exhibiting cattle.

The majority of the stock on show these days were from outside the district, mainly from Taranaki and Manawatū farms, with few local exhibitors, although there was a contingent in the young handlers' section - boys and girls.

It was the final for those in the young handlers' section after previous shows in Manawatū and Taranaki.

"For kids it's about learning to care for animals and that's a big thing," he said.

The show first began in 1906 and was a highlight of the social calendar then with dairy cattle a huge focus of the early shows.

Latimer said although there were fewer cows these days, the dairy section was still an integral part of the annual show event and any awards held prestige for winning connections.

There were three breeds on show - Holstein Friesian, Jerseys and Ayrshire Shorthorn.