Excitement mounts for Royal Show’s coronations of a different kind

by Lloyd Phillips

Organisers and hosts of the already much-anticipated 2023 Royal Show are determined that this year’s event, which will be the last at its historic location in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, will be “a grand and memorable occasion” for participants and visitors alike.

Excitement is mounting among South Africa’s agriculturists and their supporters as the 2023 Royal Show, fondly known as the Royal, opens its gates on Friday. This will be the last Royal Show in its current form and at its historic current address in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, and coincides with the 172th anniversary of the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) that organises and hosts this show.

Terry Strachan, the RAS’s long-time and highly regarded chief executive officer, says interest in the Royal this year from both exhibitors and the general public has been immense.

“Every effort is being made to ensure a grand and memorable occasion. The Royal is deemed by many to be the premier agricultural show in the country, and 2023 promises not to disappoint,” he points out.

Over its ten days this year, the Royal will again host a few thousand farm and other animals for both competitive and display their purposes, products, agricultural machinery and equipment from the tiniest to the hugest, robust but good-natured competitions to hopefully achieve proverbial, but prestigious, crowns in various agricultural categories, and educational and networking opportunities for absolutely anyone who is interested.

Mike Moncur, chairperson of the Royal’s small-stock section, says close to 800 sheep and goats are expected this year. Pen and judging space will be at a premium, so the sheep competitions will take place during the show’s first weekend and the goat competitions during the second weekend.

He continues, “We’ve had unbelievable interest, with sheep and goats coming from as far afield as the Northern Cape and other provinces. Showcasing and competing animals at the Royal is always prestigious but I think the main motivation this year is because it will be the last at the current venue. The small-stock competitions, including the renowned carcass competition, are going to be very interesting this year.”

Small-stock breeds at the 2023 Royal will include Dorper, Suffolk, Ile de France, Hampshire Down, Kalahari Red, Savannah and Boergoat.

Strachan says the Royal’s cattle section will again be under the experienced and able chairpersonship of Angus Williamson, who is chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Red Meat Producers’ Organisation and vice-president of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu). Both stud and commercial beef and dairy cattle will be competing against each other and be on display.

The cattle section will host the likes of the Youth Show and breeds including Brahman, Simbra, Simmentaler, Angus, Dexter, Limousin and Sussex. 

“The Chianina Cattle Breed National Championship will take place – their first-time participation at the Royal. The Chianina is a particularly large beef animal with Italian lineage,” explains Strachan.

The small-stock and cattle sections will culminate with the impressive Gold Cup Parade of all award-winning animals under floodlights on the evening of Wednesday, 31 May.

Moncur tells African Farming that Williamson, who was unavailable to comment for this report, is again diligently ensuring that all biosecurity controls for small-stock and cattle are in place and functional before and during the upcoming Royal. These controls are essential to ensure that no important livestock diseases, like foot-and-mouth, come onto the show premises. Respected veterinarian Dr Tod Collins,will be at the forefront of all immediate animal-health related matters.

Strachan reminds that various other far smaller, but equally interesting and impressive animals, will also be on display and competing at the 2023 Royal. These will include guinea pigs, budgerigars, fancy pigeons, fancy poultry, dogs, horses, bees and reptiles. Unfortunately, due to the risks posed by South Africa’s outbreak of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease, the hugely popular display of these animals at this year’s Royal had to be cancelled.

Moncur says the RAS will hold future Royal Shows on a former equestrian estate in the Hilton area, approximately 13 kilometres inland of where the Royal is now. Due to the reduced size of the new location, future Royal Shows will be almost exclusively focused on agriculture.

Click here for everything you need to know about the 2023 Royal Show. 

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