Dozens of young animals are being bottle fed around Northland in preparation for calf club events.
Schools hold their own agricultural days during October with all students including the home-schooled able to take part in Central Day, which is held at Barge Park Showgrounds, Whangārei, on November 4.
School children from year 0 to 13 take part in the popular activity, where they learn the responsibility of looking after and bonding with their animals, including lambs, goats and calves.
Central Day is organised by volunteers from the Whangārei Group Calf Club and secretary Natalie Roberts said organisers were keeping a close eye on Covid-19 alert levels.
"Like most people, we are waiting to see what happens. We are just going to carry on with planning.''
The day is made possible with the help of the Whangārei A&P Society, which sponsors the ribbons, GAS Maungatapere, which covers the engraving of trophies, and Affco, which provides the barbecue and sausages, as well as other sponsors.
"The entrants don't have to be prize winners from their school events. Our zoning covers entrants from Ruakākā to Maromaku,'' she said.
"We normally have around 120 children from around 17 schools.
"It would be great if we are at alert level 1 by then, but we can still hold it at level 2 with extra precautions. Everyone would have to be pre-registered and numbers will be limited. We may, if needed, split the entries into separate events to manage numbers.
"Spectators may not be able to attend as we will need to know exactly how many people are coming,'' she said.
Calf club activities have already been affected over the past few years by another disease – Mycoplasma bovis.
Calves are now back in the fold after not being allowed to attend due to concerns about the potential spread of the serious cattle disease.
"We had calves back for the first time last year after a two-year break. Although Northland has now been declared clear of M. bovis, we are still going to carry on with the safety protocols,'' Roberts said.
Social distancing of the animals is maintained so there is no mixing of calves unless they are from the same farm or family.
"When they are not taking part in the event, the calves are taken back to their owner's vehicle.''
With M. bovis and Covid-19 protocols, social distancing would apply to animals and humans, she said.
Organisers were expecting about 130 entries, with only one animal per child.
The types of animals varied.
"When we couldn't have calves, we had a big jump in the number of lambs and goats. Last year goats seemed to be very popular.''
The tradition of calf club was maintained through many generations.
"We seem to have a lot of support from the same families over the years over many generations. On our committee, we have people who entered as kids and who are now seeing their grandchildren starting out. It's pretty awesome,'' Roberts said.
Calf club was important because it taught the children about the responsibilities of feeding and caring for their animals, animal health and bonding with their pets. Entrants were judged on leading, calling and rearing, with testing of their agricultural knowledge.
Glenbervie School is one of the earliest of about 17 schools taking part in the annual celebration of country life. Their agricultural day is scheduled for October 2.
Principal Braden Eades said the lockdown conditions were presenting some challenges, but the young animal rearers were already well under way so the school was determined to go ahead if possible.
"The tradition of calf club is alive and well. We are just having to adapt,'' he said.
Previously, the school day would attract more than 70 animals, but this year 10 calves and 39 lambs had been registered.
Four judges would administer four rings. Each child would be accompanied by only one adult.
"We are keeping it all really tight.''
The other traditional events held on agriculture day - such as flower arrangements, artworks and baking displays – would not be able to go ahead.
"The classrooms won't be open, unfortunately.''
Animals can also go on to enter in the Whangarei A&P Society show, which is scheduled to be held on December 4.
Organiser Chris Mason said the committee was making the usual preparations, but the show could be held only if Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were at level 1.
"It's really tough for anyone trying to organise large events at the moment,'' she said.