Security staff will be used for the first time to manage access to stock holding pens as a Mycoplasma bovis-induced ban on showing cattle is lifted at Northland's biggest A&P Show.
This is among a raft of strict new on-site management measures for show cattle as they are allowed back to the Whangārei A&P Show after a one-year ban.
"We've done everything we can to strengthen biosecurity at the show (as competition show cattle are welcomed back to the event) in the wake of Mycoplasma bovis," said Evan Smeath, Whangārei A&P Society deputy chairman.
"It'll be great to have cattle competition back at the show again."
About 3000 people checked out the dairy and beef cattle competition rings at the show in 2017.
The 139th Whangārei A&P Show will feature competitive dairy and beef cattle showing this year after their absence from the event in 2018 due to cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) concerns.
Organisers will be closely monitoring the M. bovis situation, not hesitating to halt the lifting of the ban if the disease starts to flare up again between now and when the show happens.
Exhibitors bringing their cattle to the show on Saturday, December 7 will have to sign a declaration the farm their animals are coming from is M. bovis free.
A new arrivals booking system will be in place, scheduling cattle exhibitors' arrival on site so stock washing down that happens as they arrive is sequenced in order to separate each incoming arrival. Each wash down session will be followed with disinfecting the wash down site before it can be used again.
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Exhibitors bringing cattle will have to show their National Animal Identification Tracking (NAIT) records for every animal they bring to the show. This system tracks cattle movements between farms, a key component of New Zealand's national fight to eradicate the disease.
Any on-site milking of competition cows will be done with strict hygiene controls.
Calf club calves will still be banned from the event.
Smeath said the M. bovis risk from children bringing their calves to the event was still too high. "It's not always possible to accurately know where a child got his or her calf from," Smeath said.
Knowing where a calf came from was essential in being able to confirm it was from an M. bovis free property.
Whangārei's 2018 ban on cattle at the show was in line with many of New Zealand's rural A&P shows which last year did the same in the wake of first-time 2017 confirmation of the disease's presence in this country.
"At that stage we didn't know much about the disease, we didn't know much about how contagious it might be," Smeath said.
Smeath said Whangārei A&P Society had this year put in a "huge amount of extra effort" to maximise biosecurity measures for the event in the wake of the disease.
These had gone above and beyond the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) checklist of actions for A&P show event organisers wanting to again bring cattle back to their events.
Early expressions of interest in bringing cattle back to the 2019 show indicate about 40 cattle will be shown this year.
This compares with 50 in 2017 before the ban.
New 1.2m high metal fencing will be used — also for the first time — instead of the traditional simple single rope barriers around pens in the holding area where cattle are stationed when not being shown. Access to this cattle area will be via a single entranceway only, rather than people being able to come and go throughout the area.
This access will be monitored by security staff.
There will be a 2m buffer separating each exhibitor's show animals — physical nose-to-nose contact between stock is one of the main ways M. bovis spreads.
Helpers working with competition stock will need their own wrist identification band and be the only people allowed into the area.
"We're stoked they're coming back again — but with some pretty strict rules.
"Cattle rings are an integral part of our show," Smeath said.
"The A&P show's about people from the town being able to see the country come to town."
There are 38 different cattle competition classes at the show including heifers 6 years of age in milk, best-uddered cow and bull 2 years and over with the top prize being the Whangārei A&P Society Meat and Wool Cup.
Whangārei A&P Society chief executive Chris Mason attended the June 2019 Royal Agricultural Society conference in Wellington where the MPI provided an update on the disease.
She said MPI had indicated there was an extremely low risk from the disease if proper procedures were followed.
Mason said Whangārei A&P Society found positive support for reintroducing cattle to the show after canvasing all 2017 cattle exhibitors as part of decision-making on whether to lift the ban this year.
Show entries opened on September 1 and close on November 22.
She said there had been a number of enquiries from prospective exhibitors.
M. bovis is a disease affecting dairy and beef cattle. It is not transmitted to humans.