Written by Dr. Renee Orange, Veterinarian, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Samoa.
Every year the Ministry of Agriculture holds an Agriculture Show, and up until 2017 a separate one was held on each island, Upolu and Savaii. Each technical division of the Ministry (Fisheries, Livestock, Crops and Quarantine) prepare displays for the public to view in town at one of the parks. The displays are designed to inform the public about the services and regulatory functions of the Ministry and also to get local farmers to compete, sell and show their produce. Our division, Livestock, is normally the most popular as we set up stalls and yards and show off our cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens. Select farmers do the same. It is a great opportunity to educate people about livestock and where your food comes from. My personal aim is to get kids interested in animals and veterinary science. Our general aim is to inspire the next generation of farmers.
For the AgShow 2015, our Division constructed a super-sized Dorper sheep float to celebrate their import earlier in the year. It took 3 hours to get it to town at 3am in the morning. The driver of the truck wasn’t able to get out until the parade finished at 9am.
Perhaps the most memorable time was at our 2014 Upolu AgShow. It was my first AgShow since joining the Ministry in March that year. We had the Director of Livestock visiting from the Ministry of Agriculture of Fiji. He had accompanied a shipment of 131 sheep that we had bought from Fiji and was now our guest. It was the last night of the Show, and dusk was falling. In October, at the end of the dry season, the warm air of the sea next to the park and the muted sunset gave us a sense of relief. The animals were being loaded to be returned to their owners, no casualties so far and we could stop organizing food and water and worrying about heat stroke. Tumema and Seykeen were supervising the loading of the cattle, each of which belonged to a separate farmer. Agnes and I had left the grounds with a few other colleagues and had accompanied the Director and our boss to the little bar/restaurant just a few minutes walk down the road. As we were sitting on the balcony, Agnes got a frantic call from the guys at the grounds. Several cattle had busted through their pens and escaped while being loaded! They had headed towards the end of the peninsula that we were on.
A couple minutes later, 2 of our trucks full of stockmen went racing down the road past the restaurant.
I have to say, we didn’t see any cattle at all, they must have run on the sea wall or something.
As told to us by Tumema the next day, 5 of the cows had busted through and took off down the park. Apparently there were no stockmen immediately there so Tumema and Sey took off running to try and head the cattle off. It didn’t take long for them to realize that the seawall was absolutely crowded with last minute visitors to the show. As first the cattle then the girls ran past them, the people began egging them on and shouting out directions. It must have been quite a spectacle. We love comedy and soon the sea wall was swell of laughter.
Our Droughtmaster weaner bulls await the admiring throngs at our Upolu AgShow 2017.
After all that, only 4 of the 5 cattle were recovered. We think someone must have got lucky and made dinner out of the 5thone. It wasn’t ideal but it was a very good outcome considering it was dark. No-one got injured. The farmer was reimbursed for his lost animal.
The lesson has been learned, may I say, burned, into our minds and since then no more cattle have escaped and luckily, the visiting Director was not surprised or perturbed. Anything can happen in the islands.
Since 2014, the yards have been extra secure.