Sunday, September 11, 2011

September AM column

Four Legged Beauty Contests are Business in Disguise

My adventure to Drake Saskatchewan for the National Sheep Show and Sale back in July has certainly given me (or at least my wife, who’s idea it was) a case of the show bug. Writing this I have just got back from a hectic week showing sheep at the IPE and am now busy getting ready to show at the Salmon Arm Fall Fair. I have not shown for over 30 years and its interesting to see how time and distance changes things.
Dress code is much more relaxed, black pants and white shirt is all that’s required here. In the 70s in England dress pants and shirt, with tie along with a pressed bright white laboratory coat and of course a county cap on your head. I also don’t remember too many women in the ring. It was male dominated, with women stepping in if men were sick but mostly they were relegated to showing goats as back then they were not considered farm animals by the male fraternity.
My, how things have changed. Now women dominate the show ring in sheep and goats and do a fair amount of work with the cattle. There is a much greater sense of camaraderie and less of competitive aggression. In fact for most it seems it’s a chance to get off the farm see some fellow farming friends and have some fun. If you pick up a few ribbons along the way all the better. Some things never change however; every one does their best to show the quality of their stock and to put their herd or flock in the best light for prospective buyers. Make no mistake these shows have always been about selling livestock. The fact the public at large have a fun day at the fair and get to see all the farm animals is a bonus. The farmers and stockmen are there to show their animals to other farmers and to see what else they can purchase to improve their own herd or flock. Although there is no auction at the end, deals are made, and visits to farms arranged to facilitate purchases. It is really a big promotion event much like a boat or home show, except its for barnyard critters.
One of the biggest changes over the years is the recognition of everyone else. By that I mean none farming folk who are not there to purchase animals. After all you are the consumers of our products and as you vastly outnumber us compared to days gone by we realize the need to bridge the rural/urban gap has never been greater. Many booths are set up by producer groups to inform and educate the public with neat interactive quizzes or even hands on opportunities like milking a cow or goat. The livestock exhibitors also do their part and spend time with their charges fielding questions from passers by helping to enhance the visitors experience and to bridge the gap from Gate to Plate. I really encourage you to get out to Salmon Arm Fall Fair and chat with the farmers and agribusinesses there to get a better understanding of what goes on between the Bush and the City limits.
As for the IPE we took our registered Coloured Romney’s and had a lot of fun meeting new faces and old friends. Our ram William, (of ‘back to back’ fame from last Februarys event in Piccadilly Mall) much to our surprise enjoyed himself allowing everyone to pet him and posed constantly for photo ops. No one believed that I had a fight to catch him four days before the show, as he had no intention of going! He wallowed in the attention, at times it was embarrassing but he was a hit and I suspect he will appear on a few computer desktops. Blackberry our ewe entry and Yale and Yates her two ram lambs also garnered attention but they kept their cool and were less apt to show off. There is no class for William at Salmon Arm so Blackberry and her boys will be able to shine without the ‘old man’ to steal the show. Try to make it to the fair and drop by to say hi to our sheep for a chat of things sheepish.
Rob farms in the city at Harmonious Homestead and ewe. Reach him at

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