Poultry enthusiasts Dale Ashton and Peter Shands could well win back a national show Sydney took from Canberra in 2016, depriving the national capital of a popular Queen’s birthday holiday weekend event.
President of the Harden Poultry Club, Dale also judges champion chooks in almost every capital city in Australia while Peter is a prominent poultry figure in Canberra and Queanbeyan.
Staged every four years since former Mudgee mayor Bill Cox established it in Canberra, the National Poultry Show would attract 10,000 people, including exhibitors from around Australia, 58 judges, including guest judges from Britain and New Zealand, and 5500 prize-winning chooks and ducks.
Country chook breeders were incensed with Sydney for taking the national away. But three years ago, Royal Agricultural Society NSW poultry coordinator Kerry Pearce said Canberra were not prepared to take on the show for 2016.
Mr Pearce had said Canberra didn’t have enough pens, had borrowed Sydney’s pens and damaged them while carrying them between the capitals. A long time Canberra show organiser, Bruce Patterson, said at the time if new cages could be built he would help build them. The materials would cost $300,000.
So Peter produced an elegant solution to the problem which cost Canberra the national show.
In 2017 he created a lighter, cheaper, cleaner alternative to the expensive pens, using Corflute, which he says has no sharp intrusions and can easily be stored or transported.
He says since the 1800s exhibitors have used timber, steel and wire pens, but overlooked the advances in plastics. Two hundred Corflute pens could be carried in a ute or light truck. The same number of steel pens would need half a semi-trailer and Corflute pens can be re-used numerous times.
Peter and Dale were key figures in returning the Royal Canberra Poultry Show to prominence on the June long weekend this year after a recess. Thousands of people from the ACT poured through the pavilions at Exhibition Park for the event, a success that Dale attributes to Peter’ skills in organising and securing sponsors.
“They took $5000 through the door, from people coming from Canberra, it was unbelievable,” Dale says. “We only charged $2 to get in.”
Among 2500 exhibitors was an Australian record of 99 turkeys. Competition this year was keen among free-range egg producers in the commercial class, vying for that golden stamp on their cartons. Eggs were cracked open, yolks measured, and a clutch of six eggs judged in each entry for uniformity.
In contrast to the Royal Canberra Poultry Show’s popularity, the national show at its new location in Sydney in 2016 had been a disaster for exhibitors, Dale says.
“Everyone is talking about bringing it back to Canberra because it is too hard in Sydney. Accommodation costs you a fortune. You have nowhere to park. It is harder to drive around,” Dale says. The next national show is due next year.
Last Sunday, Dale won ‘reserve hard feather’ and ‘reserve hard feather bantam’ at the annual Harden Show. Numbers at poultry shows are down across the countryside because of the drought, with Harden attracting a mere 324 entries.
Dale says people are stretched. “The feed for chooks has nearly doubled. People are cutting right back, they probably haven’t got the chooks. Instead of showing 20 or 30, they might be showing only 10. It will probably pick up. We are hoping it will, anyway.”
Harden Poultry Club will hold a bantams-only show on August 11.