Agriculture minister gets hands-on with some shearing

Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor talks to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) team...
Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor talks to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) team member Kieran Patchell (far left) and Labour MP Liz Craig, of Invercargill, at the Southern Field Days yesterday. Photo: Nicole Sharp
Minister for Agriculture by day, shearer by night.

Damien O’Connor was on site at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu yesterday,  showing how the former dairy farmer could pick up a handpiece and take part in the annual speed shearing competition — even if the sheep did end up with a mohawk.

"It’s good to get down here and get a feel for what’s happening in Southland," Mr O’Connor said.

He had been to the Southern Field Days a handful of times and it was bigger than he had ever seen before, he said.

He was at field days talking with farmers about the drought in the southern region and the eradication plan for Mycoplasma bovis.

Eradication was still the priority, after the initial results from the first round of milk testing proved positive. About 9000 farms tested and 900 remained.

So far, all of the confirmed cases still linked back to the two initial sources, Mr O’Connor said.

The next step was the testing of discard milk, which could still reveal some cases of bovis, but it was up to farmers to be proactive about testing, Mr O’Connor said.

"Eradication is still the main priority at present ... we have to be optimistic and it’s really positive to have those early signs."

As well as talking with farmers, Mr O’Connor was also tasked with buying presents for both his partner and his daughter while he was in the south.

The three-day Southern Field Days event wrapped up yesterday, with a record number of people through the gates and record bar sales.

Southern Field Days chairman Logan Evans said it had been a huge few days.

"We were 40,000 [attendance] last time and it looks like we could be well over that."

- By Nicole Sharp

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