I ventured west from Dunedin to the sparely populated heartland centred on the equally under populated Middlemarch. Made famous I was reminded by a TV program that tried to match up some of the district’s eligible bachelor farmers with some glam city girls. I wasn’t into all that malarkey I came to see and discuss the biggest. Biggest cattle handling facility that is. The biggest that Te Pari have ever made and installed on a farm anywhere in New Zealand. Justifiably proud of their achievement Te Pari Products asked me to visit and write about what I found. I’ve been visiting farmers and writing stories for Te Pari for the best part of a decade now and these Cattle yards are impressive by any standard. The photo’s the best I could do without aerial shots don’t really do them justice.
Gordon and Lucienne originally from the Manawatu decided that the Gladmuir 1050ha block with 1000 of them effective, was ideal for cattle. And so they moved south and turned the former Otago sheep farm, from wool and lamb, to beef. Angus and a smattering of Hereford cows, over 800 of them along with an equal number of their progeny graze the schist stone littered hills. As well 200-300 replacements other cattle call the farm home, for a time anyway.
That upwards of 2000 stock on the farm is testament to Gordon’s careful management of feed and animals.
Gordon had studied the American Dr Temple Grandin’s animal handling techniques and yard design and used some of the principles in the design he took to Te Pari Products. With John Person from Te Pari visiting the property they worked out together a site and refined the design to fit in with Gordon’s needs and the topography challenges. The area selected was on volcanic hard rock base that would have required explosives to put posts into. There is a noticeable slope, as the photo shows. The yards occupy a very large area the difference in height posed some challenges in the construction and erection of the yards. “Te Pari was up for the challenge and built them to suit, in fact you’d never see the difficulties now that they’re up” says Gordon.
“Now they’re up what do you like about them?” I ask as we enter one of the nine external gates.
“Well firstly the build quality and attention to detail is excellent. A great deal of thought has gone into making everything work and as multi purpose as possible. Take the entry gates with the slam catches each side of the top of the loading ramp that allows the truck driver to close off before he slides the doors on the truck, which are always stiff due to the dust” The four square dividing gates design that we bring stock through allows two gate security between mobs allowing them to go into any one of four different yards. This cuts down on the work load as we often don’t need to run them down the race. The crush is the best I’ve used as its light and positive locking with the squeeze system easy to set for individual cattle that stay tightly in position. The fold down upper rail on the working race make handling the cattle easy and safe. The easy lock, unlock head bale is light and well thought out and can be operated from either end of the crush. We find it best from the tail end though that’s just how it works for us. Although they are big yards I can work them on my own safely if need be, with the personal access gates we have, allowing me to get easily into any one of the yards. There’s no climbing over the sides of the yards which is great as you get older. I made some changes to the design of the fence panels in the race; we put a ground rail below the bottom rail as an extra assurance that should a cow go down they couldn’t get their leg jammed beneath the rail. Te Pari also redesigned the sliding gates, with a chain operated slam catch that you grasp when you grab the handle on the side of the split slider. In practice it’s easy to use with one hand and with this many cattle provides a more positive lock”.
“We deliberately kept a big central working area, free from stock, so we have the ability to put, say calves, in it, or just keep it free so despite the size of the yards, we can get to all the working areas without going through gates or stock”.
Lucienne mentions that while Gordon was off work injured recently they were able to TB Test 700 cattle in the yards with just three people and the TB Tester taking just over an hour. “They flow so well” she said “and in perfect safety for the operators”.
High above the drafting race is what looks like an observation deck, though in reality it is a drafting deck, the first time Te Pari have built one on their yards and with standard fittings. It allows the drafter a secure area surrounded by safety rails and without the cattle beneath seeing the person which has three way gate options.
Despite its size the yard complex is easy to use with large and small mobs of cattle enabling two people to work on drenching drafting or vaccinating.
“The greatest benefit I see is that I have a relationship with a company that will go out of its way to make everything easy for me. They have come up here several times to refine the setup and not charged me. I appreciate the service the quality and most of all the people. In fact though we spent more on these yards than most farmers do on a descent new tractor, we’re planning to order and build another set on the runoff block we’ve just bought”.
“That’s commitment” I comment. “No” said Gordon “It’s loyalty that they’ve earned!!”