Historic Lake Station in the Nelson Lakes area has seen many changes. Established in the mid 1800’s by John Kerr it originally covered a vast area from Kawatiri Junction to St Arnaud. Bought in 1936 by Alex McConochie, it is now farmed by third generation brothers, Malcolm and Doug McConochie, along with Malcolm’s wife Ingrid.
Over the ensuing years parts of the station have been sold, the homestead block of 1165 ha. now is the home to a Hereford stud. The commercial herd is around 200 breeding cows while the stud has just over 100. Running alongside the cattle is a commercial flock of Romney Poll Dorsets.

It was a cold and overcast the day I visited the station, as they were preparing for their annual on farm Hereford Bull Sale.

As you enter the property, the long drive off state Highway 63, wends its way past a huge shed full of Ford tractors and trucks, highlighting the brothers prefered brand, then on down to a large double deck steel loading ramp.

The impressive loading facilities give an inkling to the standards the McConochie’s maintain. One of the recent changes at the Station has been the change from a ‘grandpas axe’ wooden yards to a set of gleaming metal Te Pari yards.

Strangely the new yards were not attached to the loading race; instead they stood well back in the lea of the woolshed, well sheltered from the wind.

“We’ve only had these for a couple of months” says Malcolm, waving an arm in the general direction of the yards. “So the heifers have been through and we’ve weighed a couple of mobs, but I’m sure they’ll get plenty of use! We put them here as it suited the farm’s tracks and holding paddocks and a race [loading] isn’t always needed when we use them”

“Five years ago we contacted Te Pari, to put in that loading race and Tom Holt came up from Oamaru to see us. We have been pleased with how simple it is to use and how well the cattle flow through it, so that they are loading on a flat surface, rather than a steep ramp. Tom worked with us and changed their [Te Pari] design to fit our needs and he also commented about how much he could improve our old wooden yards. In fact, it seemed he mentioned it every time we spoke, but he was really tuned into our needs, so when we finally got sick of repairing the yards every time we went to use them, we gave him a ring to chat about the possibility of installing some Te Pari metal yards. He’d kept in touch regularly, over the years and more importantly everything he promised about our loading race from design though delivery construction and use, turned out to be ‘bang on’. He came up promptly and once again he tailored their standard [yard] plan to fit us, including the drafting race with a platform above to operate the gates from, which are well away from the main race and weigh platform and crush. We did this so that all the ‘nasty’ operations were associated with the crush and cattle flow easily through the drafting gates. In practice it works well and the platform is high enough to accurately count all the stock in the yards”.

Malcolm had some cows in the yards and demonstrated the way they use them and the benefits they’d found. “We’re not getting any younger and these slam shut gates that open and close securely in either direction are brilliant. You hear it close and latch, meaning you do not have to watch your back. The visibility is great compared to the wooden ones as you can always see around the whole setup. Mostly though the ability to work easily and safely alone cuts down both labour time and cost.”

I looked around at the completely concrete floored yards and asked about those costs?
“These worked out at $120,000 complete, which we see is both good value and an investment. The concrete makes them clean and a dry place to work; we can hose it down and don’t have cattle standing in cold wet mud. I can even wear lightweight boots! If our operation grows we can enlarge any of the yards with a few extra panels or create new ones. I like the versatility and safety for the stock. No sharp edges or nails sticking out, to cause problems. In fact the only issue is the colour blue Te Pari use. It attracts bees, in particular Bumble bees!” he said. As if right on cue a bumble bee started flying around the cow in the crush. “It really can be distracting and the stock don’t appreciate it. We’ll cover up the blue logos and that should fix it” he smiled!

“When the vet called, the first time we used the crush, he said to us how good they were to work in and how much he liked them. He said it makes it much safer and quicker so we got through the heifers in a little over half the time. They charge out their time, so I knew it would save us on the bill!”

“What we’ve noticed, was that over time, cattle dimensions have increased and Te Pari have allowed for that as these metal yards are bigger overall and the races are slightly wider. That was something we hadn’t expected, but was really welcome!”

With that Malcolm invited us [my wife had joined me on the 6 hour return trip] to come and join his wife Ingrid, at home for lunch.

Over a very nice meal and a hot drink, we got to know the McConochie’s and just how much they value good service and products. “You could call Malcolm, a Tom Holt fan, as he decided not to get any other quote for the yards. I say that because Tom had ‘underpromiced and over delivered on our loading race” said Ingrid. “We’ve had dealings with some rural companies over the years that do the opposite, so we stick with the people we trust!”