Bill (left) and Robert Gibson are planning to keep up an
81-year tradition by taking merinos to the Wanaka A&P
Show, which starts on Friday. Photo by Mark Price.
There has been an A&P Show in Wanaka every year since
1933 and every year, without fail, the Gibson family from
Tarras has been there.
And so have their merinos.
Bill Gibson and his son Robert are continuing a family
tradition begun by Bill's father Hector, who set the family
on a merino-farming course when he bought parts of the huge
Morven Hills Station in 1917.
The family's 853ha, flat-land Malvern Downs farm has always
been a centre for merino breeding, and attendance at shows -
particularly in Wanaka and Christchurch - is just part of the
Bill showed sheep in Wanaka for the first time in 1946 and
Robert in 1980.
Bill admits there is not much financial value to be gained
from attending the Wanaka show, but he and Robert show no
signs of losing interest.
''It's a love of showing and putting your sheep against your
opposition, and the good fellowship that you have through
showing,'' Bill said.
He has no idea how many prizes he has won, but hundreds of
certificates and ribbons are displayed inside Malvern's
The most impressive of the 30 merinos destined for the show
this year are traditional horned rams bred for their fine
But since 1950, Malvern Downs has also been producing polled
(non-horned) merinos, which mature more quickly and are
bigger than traditional merinos - making them better for meat
Bill said while polled merino had a long history, in New
Zealand it had only been in the past five years they had
''really taken off''.
Robert said tenure review had played a part in the increased
popularity of polled merino.
The amount of high country land available for grazing wethers
had fallen and farmers were looking for animals that matured
quickly and could be killed for meat rather than kept for
Bill said his family had always loved merino meat.
''People think they've just discovered it, but it's been
there all the time.''
He recalls the days when meat cuts such as shanks were thrown
to the dogs.
''Now they're keenly sought after.''
Preparing their sheep for the show was mostly about selecting
the best specimens.
Bill said he had seen sheep in Canada shampooed and
blow-dried for shows, but the best these merinos could expect
was a bit of a face-wash and a clip around the other end.