The country came to the city last week as thousands of
people flocked to the 150th Canterbury A and P Show.
Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae caught up with some of the
exhibitors and personalities at the show.
When Woodbury Lilly was named supreme champion animal at the
Canterbury A and P Show three years ago, it was a "magical"
experience for Clydesdale breeders Jim and Deborah Cook.
The Cook family, from Cust, in Canterbury, are regular
exhibitors at the show and took four horses to this year's
Mrs Cook recalled that when Lilly was in the ring being
judged she noticed the mare had a real presence about her.
While she had thought their horse might have a chance, being
named supreme champion over all other livestock was "just
unbelievable". It was also valuable promotion for the
Mrs Cook described being at the show as like a "working
holiday", but it was definitely not a holiday, she said,
She was up at 5am on the day the horses were judged, plaiting
and preparing the Woodbury Clydesdales quartet, ensuring they
looked "spick and span".
The couple had both always loved Clydesdales and decided that
one day they would like to have one. But it was not until
later that they discovered Mrs Cook's grandfather, from East
Eyreton, was a great competition ploughman, working a team of
Clydesdales, and Mr Cook's grandfather, from Woodbury, also
ploughed with a team, so it was "in the blood", she said.
They just wished that their grandparents were still around to
see something that they loved doing being continued.
They started with a stallion called Angus, who was a "bit of
a trickster", and then foundation mares Coldstream Honey and
Numbers had grown to "far too many", Mrs Cook said. There
were probably about 20 horses on their property.
They own 4.8ha and lease a further 8ha, and while they would
like a farm, they had not won Lotto yet, she said.
As well as breeding and showing their horses, they also did
They attended a competition in North Canterbury several years
ago, celebrating 100 years, where Mrs Cook's grandfather had
once won a prize.
Being involved with Clydesdales was like stepping back in
time to the days when life was much simpler.
In a world where lifestyles were "so fast and furious", there
was something about the gentle giants that was "really
"These horses broke in the country, they produced the crops.
I just think that's amazing," she said.
Clydesdales had kind temperaments, they were "great thinkers"
and they were "your mates, really".
"They'll do anything for you if you're good to them."
Another Canterbury family with an association with
Clydesdales is the Hawkinses.
While Jaime Hawkins was busy in the ring with the horses, her
father John and brother Sam were busy with horsepower of a
much different variety.
The Hawkins family are fourth-generation Canterbury
sawmillers and they were involved with a steam display, a
special feature of the show to mark the 150th anniversary. It
included a working threshing mill, sawmill, chaff cutter and
The saw-bench was built up for exhibition purposes in the
1960s, while the traction engine powering it had been owned
by the Hawkins family since 1942.
The 1909 Burrell traction engine was involved in logging and
sawmilling until 1962 and then intermittently until the late
1970s. It was "part of our family", John Hawkins said.
In fact, they took it back to England in 1996 to the works
where it was made and were welcomed with a mayoral reception.
And when John's father, Bob, died in September, they milled
the timber, made the casket and then the traction engine took
him to his grave.
Bob Hawkins had left school when he was 12 to drive the
traction engine, when his father got sick.
He established Stoneyhurst Timbers in South Canterbury when
he was 19. The business, which is now based at Belfast, has
grown to employ about 30 staff.
Manufacturing in New Zealand was difficult now "no matter
what you do", John Hawkins said.
The company exported 50%-60% to 12 and 14 countries.
While it was "tough", Mr Hawkins was not complaining.
He was enjoying himself at the show, reacquainting himself
with old friends and giving the public a taste of yesteryear.
The phone did not get answered for three days and it was
People appreciated the display and he likened it to milking a
cow and getting milk, or shearing a sheep and getting wool.
Taking a log and then cutting it to get timber was a process
that was not always understood.
Mr Hawkins, who is a member of the Southbrook Traction Engine
Club, reckoned there were about 300 traction engines in New
Zealand. Of that figure, probably between 70 and 80 were in
"going order and out regularly". The Hawkins family owned "a
dozen or so".
"You get attached to them.
Another comes along ... a bit like people with vintage cars,"
Also getting steamed up at the show were members of the
Christchurch Historic Machinery Club.
The stationary engine display showcased a variety of engines
that were used in the days before electricity.
One of the oldest was an 1890 Priestman oil engine.
For club member Albert Buckley, of Belfast, who is also
involved with the Canterbury Steam Preservation Society, it
was an interesting hobby.
Mr Buckley (72) has been collecting engines for more than 20
years and now has about 30.
He liked "old things" - "that's why I keep my wife" - and he
spent hours working on his engines. He also enjoyed the
comradeship the hobby brought, although he wished more young
people would get involved.
Receiving a pet lamb as a gift led to Phillippa Sanders
establishing her own black and coloured sheep flock.
While that first lamb was a wether - so obviously not
suitable for breeding - she acquired more pet lambs.
She now has about 12 ewes "and a few oddments", but planned
to cut back numbers having recently shifted from Herbert to
While showing sheep was something new to her, she had showed
horses for about 30 years and the basics of showing were the
same - the animals required good feeding and good
Nancy Bennett, from Gawler in South Australia, said it was a
"real privilege" to be asked to judge at the show with her
She was judging the black and coloured fleece wool, while her
husband was judging black and coloured sheep.
They have been involved with black and coloured sheep for
about 40 years.
Both teachers, and both from farming backgrounds, they
discovered there was a need for coloured sheep among the
They bought a block of land and thought the sheep would be
good lawn-mowers. Their interest in sheep grew and also their
They now have about 500 sheep and the farm is managed by Mrs
Bennett's brother. Their wool is exported all over the world.
Their main problem was in processing which was becoming very
difficult in Australia as mills and scours close down.
While in New Zealand, they were looking at options for
processing their wool for yarn.
The numbers of black and coloured sheep were decreasing in
Australia but demand was still strong from the handcraft
industry, she said.
The quality of fleeces at Christchurch was "beautiful".
Classes and criteria were different so she had to get used to
Jodie Gibson, of Middlemarch, formed her Dry Creek Suffolk
sheep stud a few years ago when the Gibson family was living
in the Hakataramea Valley.
Her brother Will already had a black and coloured sheep stud
- later adding a Hereford stud - and her parents, Anton and
Liz, had a Santa Gertrudis cattle stud, so she thought she
might as well start her own.
A pupil at St Hilda's Collegiate, Jodie (17) started with six
sheep and now had "quite a few".
Her aim was to breed good stud rams that she could sell to
The Gibson family had a truck-load of cattle and a
trailer-load of sheep at the show.
She had learnt a lot from her parents and her father was
"pretty much stud manager".
One of the younger exhibitors was Jared Rutten (9), of
Invercargill, who was proudly showing his calf Sapphire and
his second-prize ribbon.
He has been showing for four years and while Sapphire was a
"wee bit jumpy", she was also a proficient eater of anything
from cheese balls to apples.
"I just like the way they react when you scratch them," he
He particularly enjoyed winning ribbons and prize money.
At one show, he won $45 which he spent on a blow-up axe and a
spray gun "that sprays stuff".
In the sheep section, show-goers also had the opportunity to
meet Shrek's northern cousin, "Horietta" the hermit sheep.
Horietta, originally named Horace, was captured from Big Ben
Station in the Rakaia Gorge last November.
The hermit sheep, who had evaded capture for about seven
years, was thought to be a wether like Shrek, but was later
found to be a ewe.
The merino-cross ewe was shorn last December, with her fleece
yielding nearly 14kg.
She now had her own line of merchandise and was raising money
for the Westpac rescue helicopter and search and rescue dogs,
minder Bev Tilson said.
Her wool had gone all over the world and there were already
orders coming in for her second-shear wool. Horietta produced
twin lambs this spring, sired by a merino ram called Johnny