Compassion in World Farming

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Three Counties Show

Carrying on with my news from last weekend, we finally got around to going to the Three Counties Show at Malvern on Saturday. It takes place not that far from us, but in the six years since moving down this way we have not been. I think hubby was quietly worried that I'd come away with new animals, but I reassured him that I'd been reliably informed that you couldn't buy any of the animals on show. (Oh dear!)

As soon as we got to the showground I knew it was going to be a good afternoon. The intoxicating combination of the sights & smells of the fair mingled with the sight & sounds of the animal shows brought an immediate child like rush of excitement & I practically skipped through the gates! Hubby followed dutifully on behind, but immediately cheered up when he spied a stand selling proper local cider! The first thing we came to, after passing several stalls selling everything from the latest fandangled mixing/grating wonder machine for the kitchen to exquisite hand carved garden furniture, was the sheep shearing contest. After some waiting, finally the white coated judges stood with clipboards at the ready while the shearers stood at their marks & sheep bleated frantically - and then they were off! Sheep after sheep were pulled through to the platform, sheared at lightening fast pace & before they knew it were 'naked' & dispatched through a gate with bewildered looks on their faces. The competition was obviously being fiercely contended & was a proper serious affair, but I couldn't help but be more on the sheep's side & be pleased when a shearer got a 'kicker' to struggle with.

As it appeared there were going to be several heats, then semi's, then a final we decided to wander on round & see what else we could find. There were row upon row of stalls & information desks, tents full of crafts & antiques & lots of vans selling every possible kind of refreshment from crepes to chips, from Italian coffee to beer. I had a surprisingly good coffee in a cardboard cup & after trying to resist Hubby succumbed to the temptation of that local cider.

A bit more wandering & we finally found the judging rings for the sheep, cattle & pigs. We had missed the sheep judging but were able to meander up & down rows of pens with every kind & colour of sheep you could imagine, some boasting rosettes for 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. My favourite sheep was one that looked like Dougal the dog from the Magic Roundabout.

Then a tantalising glimpse through a gathered crowd of some fine specimens of pigs being trotted around the ring by proud children, before moving on to the cattle.

I know for the people involved in the breeding & showing of the animals & the judges who preside over them it's a very serious, respected business but I couldn't help giggling a bit at the very English pomp & ceremony of it all. Bulls all clean & shiny being turned this way & that for the judges with clipboards measuring & feeling & poking & staring. No dignity in it all for the normally fearsome bull with a ring through it's nose! So on we went.
We came upon the main arena just in time for a spectacular sky diving event:

Then onwards for the animal welfare stands, including the Retired Greyhound Rehoming stand which we stopped a while at as my Mum & Dad recently adopted an ex-racer called 'Nervous Jane', a lovely girl who is now enjoying a very pampered retirement. I also spied the Droitwich Ferret Rescue stand, which was a particular draw to me as we adopted our two gorgeous hobbs Flowerpot & Nipper from them. They had a cage with a very pretty albino jill & her five 3 week old kits on display. They were just the cutest little furry munchkins imaginable! Hubby wandered off anticipating my pleas of 'can we have some more please' & enjoyed the more macho displays of wood cutting skills & birds of prey.

A quick rest of our feet & some chips to feed rumbling tums we carried on around until we found ourselves back at the pigs where the judging had finished so we were free to have a closer look. I am particularly fond of pigs & it was probably a close run contest between the squeals of the multitude of pigs & my squeals of delight as I rushed from one pen to the next in piggy heaven!

However, despite everything we'd seen & all the thrills, sights, sounds & tastes of the day hubby knew that I was a little disappointed as something was missing. We were just starting to think about heading off home when hubby saw on the sign we were studying to locate our car park a tent labelled with the magic word 'Poultry'. Hurray!! I grabbed hubby's hand & we weaved at speed through the throngs of people towards the promised tent & after a bit of head scratching & going around in circles we finally found it. Poor hubby knew he was doomed as soon as we entered the tent and were greeted with a large sign to the left with the fateful words 'Poultry Sales'. I tried to keep my excitement inside & dutifully look at all the fancy breeds in their cages, some of which were frankly just peculiar.

Then I could bear it no longer & pleaded 'can we have a look plllleeeease?' Being the wonderful hubby that he is he let me browse the birds up for sale, everything from bantams to huge cockerels, & a couple of hens caught my eye until we found them ..... a pair of Aylesbury ducks! I'm especially enthralled with ducks at the moment, having hand reared our Muscovy ducklings & hubby had to agree they were gorgeous. So there was nothing for it but to desperately attract the attention of one of the salesmen & get a SOLD sign up pronto before anyone else snapped them up. Then they were ours & I was beside myself! I hugged & kissed hubby, who then added to my excitement by then going to the on site cash machine so that we could also buy one of the hens that I fancied, a pretty 14 week old Crested Cream Legbar. Well my experience of the Three Counties Show couldn't have ended more perfectly as we headed back to the car with boxes of protesting birds!! (To the horror of hubby the lady who wrote out our receipt told me that there would be another poultry sale at the Autumn Show later in the year!)

Here are some pictures of 'Daisy' & 'Seymour', who quickly settled in with our Khaki Campbells.

Ducks are generally peace loving creatures I find & we were able to introduce them straight away without any of the difficulties you can encounter when introducing new poultry to an established flock. But we kept 'Izzy' in our back garden until all the hens had roosted for the night in the hen house & then quietly slipped her inside when it was dark enough that they couldn't really see her. This seems to be the most successful method of introduction we have tested & was recommended to us by the Domestic Fowl Trust. It is apparently based on the idea that hens have poor memories & will except the new hen as if it has always been one of them when they wake up the next morning. In practice it doesn't work quite as neatly as that, but it certainly prevents the 'new girl' being attacked.

Izzy the new arrival peers shyly out of her box

Izzy has integrated well & Daisy & Seymour have also made friends with the ducklings now they are in the field. I even think that Chalk sees Daisy as a bit of a mother figure as she was following along behind her today & copying her every more - very sweet! So the family has expanded yet again & all's well in our happy little world of creatures :-)

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