Shirley’s love for the show’s ‘gentle giants’

By Melissa Keogh

From cupcakes to guinea pigs and chirping budgerigars, the Royal Adelaide Show is once again alive with 34,000 entries vying for winning ribbons.

Aside from the cute and fluffy entries in the 2017 event is 680kg of prime muscle by way of a Charolais bull named Masterpiece.

The “gentle giant’s” owner is Adelaide Hills handler Shirley Barker who has exhibited cattle at every Royal Adelaide Show for nearly 40 years.

“To be honest I think all of the royal shows in the country, I think we have the best and the most agricultural outlook,” she says.

“And that’s the name of the game because, after all, the show is run by the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia.”

Long-time Royal Adelaide Show exhibitor Shirley Barker with her 680kg Charolais bull, Masterpiece.

Long-time Royal Adelaide Show exhibitor Shirley Barker with her 680kg Charolais bull, Masterpiece.

This year, Shirley has also entered in the show a number of other cattle from her Mt Barker stud Caithness, including two more bulls, three heifers and a steer.

So far 2017 has been all about the third place ribbons, with the three bulls taking third in their categories.

“We got run over by the Victorians,” Shirley says.

“In 2015 we won just about everything and did extremely well.

“It all depends on the judges and what they’re looking for.”

Caithness bulls are renowned for their reasonable temperaments, good growth, muscle and structure.

Shirley says she has “no fear” of the muscular animals.

“I started riding horses when I was four and I’ve grown up with animals all my life,” she says.

“They (bulls) are gentle things surprisingly, you can walk into their yard and they don’t move.

“You learn to work them out over the years, they hate being stared at.”

Growing up on her family’s property in Mt Barker, as a young adult Shirley strayed from her agricultural interests and studied medicine, travelling overseas to work in US and UK hospitals.

Returning to Australia, she reconnected to her agricultural roots and began showing cattle in the Royal Adelaide Show in the 1970s alongside her late husband, Victor.

Shirley’s livestock are paraded through the showground’s cattle pavilion alongside other competitors from across regional South Australia.

“The best part of the show is seeing all your friends because that’s the only time you see them,” she says.

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