Why farmers leave the event

For Kyle, the value just isn’t there anymore. He said he would have nearly $3,000 in entrance fees, lodging, and other expenses if he went this year.

He compared it to the Bendigo Elite White Suffolk show in late August, where admission was cheaper, there were no parking or membership fees, and the organizers hosted dinners for the farmers. The late September dates in Melbourne are also late for many sheep sales.

Ian Kyle's sheep farm has been in the family for four generations now.  He is pictured here with son Reagan Kyle and granddaughter Raiven.

Ian Kyle’s sheep farm has been in the family for four generations now. He is pictured here with son Reagan Kyle and granddaughter Raiven.Credit:Jason South

Emma Germano, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, insisted she was not critical of the Melbourne Royal Show, which she praised for educating city dwellers and hosting small food and wine producers, but said regional shows now have a more agricultural fulfilled purpose.

She said the show changed out of necessity and fewer commercial breeders exhibited because for many farmers, buying and selling livestock had gone online.

“Do you find the biggest Angus bull breeders at the Melbourne Show? No, you don’t,’ said Germano.

Sheep farmer Doug Deppeler, from Derrinallum in western Victoria, has many fond memories of his 50 years of exhibiting at the Show and was awarded an honorary life membership this year.

But after a smaller turnout than ever, he’s not sure if he’ll return. Despite winning a few awards this year, he said the lack of competition didn’t benefit his business.

“You have to sell a prized ram to cover your costs, but it’s been a while since we checked in Melbourne,” Deppeler said.

“[Regional shows] are 100 percent geared towards country folk and don’t have the same carnival vibe…so potential buyers come along.”

In 2006, the Melbourne Showgrounds was redeveloped and the site shrank, resulting in less space for livestock and each species was given only a few days to exhibit. According to Deppeler, that detracted from the ‘spectacle’.

Livestock space has been reduced since the Showgrounds redevelopment in 2006.

Livestock space has been reduced since the Showgrounds redevelopment in 2006.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascuic

Neal said fewer animals didn’t affect the competition level for farmers because the emphasis was on quality not quantity, nor did it make any difference to the audience.

“We don’t necessarily think that larger numbers will make for a better experience,” Neal said.

Cattle rancher Kierin Martin, from Forbes in NSW, is newer to the industry and said that attending the Melbourne Royal Show cost about $12,000 in total, but it was instrumental in raising the profile of his business, which he started in 2008. .

“It’s an investment in your future,” Martin said.

Kierin and Nikki Martin, pictured with 14-month-old son Riley, showcase the Hereford cattle at the Melbourne Royal Show.

Kierin and Nikki Martin, pictured with 14-month-old son Riley, showcase the Hereford cattle at the Melbourne Royal Show.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascuic

Martin also found that visitors were eager to learn more about food production. “There are plenty of people asking questions. Part of our problem today is a great lack of education between urban and rural people.”

Horsham Agricultural Society secretary Andrea Cross said the show’s attendance has doubled to 6,000 this year, although the Melbourne Royal Show took place on the same weekend.

Cross said both shows were important in raising awareness of agricultural practices and food production as Australia becomes more urbanized.

But Cross said she was disappointed that Melbourne organizers had not consulted her group about the clashing dates, as it created problems for exhibitors wishing to attend both events.

Showbags are a big draw for families visiting the Royal Melbourne Show.

Showbags are a big draw for families visiting the Royal Melbourne Show.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascuic

Neal said clashes with regional shows were inevitable and Melbourne Royal’s dates had to work for the city crowd. This year’s event had several sold-out days with 50,000 visitors.

The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria was renamed Melbourne Royal this year and the show’s program was revamped to place more emphasis on food and entertainment, including a lineup of live music performances after dark.

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Those associated with the Show have said change is important to attract new city crowds.

Neal said that even if Melbourne visitors were drawn to the Show for the attractions, they still flocked through the animal areas and her hope was that the Show’s youth education programs would foster the next generation of agricultural workers.

“We get a lot of people, a lot of questions and it’s from dawn to dusk.”

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