Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria chief executive Mark O’Sullivan can hardly wipe the satisfied smile from his face.
For the second successive year, beef breed entries have broken through the 500-head barrier, something they hadn’t done for the previous six years. Sheep are doing even better, with 550 animals entered across all classes.
“In fact, for the past five years, our sheep entries have been going up every year. It is something about which we are very excited,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “The RASV has put a lot of time, and made a significant long-term investment in the quality of our livestock displays and we believe the 10,000 square metre pavilion is a pretty special headquarters,” he said.
“Not only does it house all the animals, it also contains the judging and show rings, all under cover and all under the one roof. That’s about as safe and comfortable as you can get.”
At the same time, Mr O’Sullivan said the livestock, all the livestock, form a critical part of the complete show experience. He said the days when many young city children got to spend holidays on the farms of friends and relatives are long gone with Melbourne’s changing demographics.
Not only are they impressive to see, they also provide a connection for new generations to help them develop a better understanding of where food comes from and the people who produce it.
“We have a real focus on maintaining our core values and I am pleased to say that enthusiasm is reciprocated by the farmers,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“Take the Speckle Parks, this year’s beef feature breed, they have really got behind this opportunity, supported it to record show numbers for the breed, and the same goes for the Hampshire Down people. They couldn’t do enough to help us get it right,” he said.
“It’s actually quite special to have a heritage breed in the spotlight here, especially as each show has to be a bit of a balancing act between nurturing our grassroots agricultural history and embracing new technology and interests – we work hard all year to get it right for just 11 packed days.
“We try and interface our mainly city visitors with our rural exhibitors – this is the only place so many people come together in the one place and that provides a marvellous showcase for the agriculture industry.”
Mr O’Sullivan said there was also an emotional connection that spanned generations, as parents, and grandparents, brought their children and grandchildren to share an experience that held such strong memories for them.
Unfortunately, the redesign of the showgrounds meant there would be only two cattle parades during the show, he said. It was no longer possible to stage the former grand parades. “But it is still a great spectacle, a veritable parade of champions,” he added.
“And I have to say that interest in the cookery, art and craft pavilions get stronger every year – including the CWA cakes. These are some of the most popular areas of the show.
“We also involve as many schools – city and country – as possible and RASV sponsors several youth events, including a $10,000 scholarship as an emerging leader award and as $10,000 travel bursary for the winning dairy cattle handler to visit overseas locations and see what the dairy industry is doing there.
“All the food events are getting bigger and better, leveraging of the celebrity aspect of all the cooking shows and competitions. We will also have pop-up restaurants and there are always the craft beers, our wine competitions and the spirits – it’s a total experience.
“If you come to the Royal Melbourne Show, you will be getting a genuine taste of experiences you won’t find anywhere else.”