Cattle could be missing from the Royal New Zealand Show because of the mycoplasma bovis scare.
With the show just three months away, on October 17, show hosts the Hawke's Bay A&P Society is expected to decide next week whether to go ahead with its drawcard stock class or put a decision on hold.
General manager Sally Jackson said the cattle section committee meets on Monday, with a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) representative in attendance, and a recommendation will be made to the society's board meeting the next day.
"Obviously safety is the big issue," she said.
MPI and Dairy NZ have been in close contact with the Royal Agricultural Society over the crisis, with particular interest in the eastern North Island region where the northern show season starts.
Calf classes in children's animal showing sections have already been cancelled. The North Island season-opening Poverty Bay Show in Gisborne on October 12-13 will be without its Supreme Heifer Challenge, now set to be staged on the property of sponsors Turihau Station, and the Wairarapa A&P Society announced this week it has cancelled the cattle classes at its show at Clareville, near Carterton, on October 27-28.
The Egmont show in Taranaki in November has also abandoned its cattle classes, while in the South Island the Winton A&P show in Southland last January went ahead without cattle classes, as did the Oxford and Hawarden shows in North Canterbury in March and April.
Royal Agricultural Society beef section chairman Mark Fleming said cattle will also be absent from the Ellesmere and Ashburton shows in Canterbury, both in October.
He said all shows would be considering their positions and the Canterbury society, with MPI, has been drafting guidelines to make cattle-showing safe at its show in November, and which could be used as a template for the 90 shows around the country.
He said the effects on the shows were secondary to the impact on the industry and the exhibitors if M. bovis spread, with the potential to destroy studs and genetic lines which had been in some cases developed over more than a century.
Cattle showing stalwart and regular show Meat and Wool Cup winner Tony Thompson, a retired veterinarian and also studmaster of Glen Anthony Simmentals, says circumstances mean he perhaps doesn't know as much about M. bovis as he should do and he will be "interested" to hear what MPI has to tell the cattle committee, of which he is a member.
In the twilight of his showing career, his bulls and heifers have propped up cattle sections at several shows for some years, but despite the limited numbers showing compared with the highs of the past, there are still new teams on the scene, he says.
He highlighted last year's trip by the Woolley family from Northland to win the Meat and Wool Cup with a Salers bull named Whisky.
Often having shown as many as 15 to 20 animals at single shows, and downsizing because of a shortage of younger people to handle them, he does have some worries about the future of the cattle section if it is cancelled, even if just for one year.
There were 305 entries across more than 20 cattle classes at the Royal Show last year.
The first detection of M. bovis in New Zealand came in South Canterbury last July, and the latest MPI figures last Friday show it has been detected on 40 properties nationwide, including one in Hawke's Bay (now cleared), two in Wairarapa, two elsewhere in the North Island (but none in the Gisborne region), and 35 in the South Island. The farms are among 70 nationwide under Restricted Place Notice.