Ken Strugnell Ag journalist from Canterbury ventures north to visit the Everton’s and their iconic Lakeview Farm in the southern Manawatu.

Peter and Nigel Everton place the safety of their staff and livestock as number one. So it was no surprise to find their wet, muddy and shaded wooden yards, relegated in favour of a new set of Te Pari metal yards.

Lakeview Farm overlooks Lake Horowhenua to the east, straddling the country west of Levin to the Hokio Beach coastal grey sands of the lower North Island. Nestled into those sand dunes, beneath the highest farmed dune in New Zealand, is a set of SY 105 Te Pari yards complete with a Te Pari Crush load bars and scale.

The day I called, the rain was persisting and a cold sou’wester was blowing. “That huge sand hill (Moutere Hill) provides shelter in such conditions, taking out the stinging cold” said Peter. Te Pari had suggested the site, which Peter had for many years thought would be perfect. Putting in the yards also coincided with the national transmission line company upgrading the pylons that march across the dunes, which also necessitated them upgrading the access roads, allowing all weather roading to the yards.

David Brownrigg oversees the company’s livestock operations while his brother, Jonathan focuses on the cropping programme.

Finishing lambs, says Hayden Ashby, is the primary enterprise of the livestock division of the company.

Lakeview Farm (now owned by Peter and his sister Jeanette Rolfe) has expanded over many years - two neighbouring sheep and beef properties to the north and one to the south were purchased. Ohurangi Farm to the north is managed by Lindsay Schmidt and Everton Farm to the south is managed by Lindsay’s wife Wendy.

The Ohurangi and Everton Farm blocks suit Herefords, and they carry up to 370 breeding cows that go to the bull producing approximately 350 calves that are carried through to two year olds. Lakeview (the original farm) has been turned into a dry-stock farm run by Peter.

The Everton’s together with a sharemilker run a small dairy farm adjoining Everton and Lakeview farms - milking 280 cows.

Lindsay quite matter of factly reveals “the wooden yards we had were dangerous and the stock didn’t run in them” as we walked up to the gleaming metal yards.
“When Nigel came home three years ago to work on the farm, after many years working for a large manufacturing company in Hamilton, one of the first major tasks I gave him was to upgrade our handling facilities for cattle” said Peter. “Our cattle have had a reputation for being a ‘little wild’ and we knew the time had come to stop repairing the old yards every time we wanted to use them”.

Above all they HAD to be safe for us and the cattle to use.

Nigel openly admitted the change was well overdue and promptly started to research their options. “They were always going to be metal, had to be able to be a one man operation and needed to be versatile so we could change them if our farming practices changed. Above all they HAD to be safe for us and the cattle to use. Nothing flowed in our old yards, as the cattle simply didn’t want to go where we wanted them, so that too was also a priority. I wanted a good sized stock free area next to the race. The race itself had to hold at least six fully grown steers with one more in the crush” he said.

Nigel, Lindsay and Peter read all the info and stories, they could find, on metal yards and visited the field days at Feilding and other local farmers at Rangiotu and Marton, who had Te Pari yards. “In the end that research made the choice simple, it was to be metal and Te Pari had the best deal and the designs that met our needs” said Nigel.

As the rain got heavier Lindsay ran some cows through the race and crush and on through the three way drafting gates. “We weren’t sold on the drafting system, but as it came with the SY105 we took it” said Peter. “I’m very pleased we did as it gives a true one man remote operation, as the cattle flow easily”.

“As I mentioned earlier safety was our number one priority, so in answer to your question about how we’d cope without these yards it’s simple, we couldn’t” said Peter. “They are integral to both Ohurangi and Lakeview blocks and are used every week. We send our stock through Alliance in Levin and using the scale, allows us to get them to the right weights to meet the schedule. They are always ready to use, the cattle are quiet in them and the man area next to the race allows easy safe access to the cattle. As well the vets like them. They know the setup and will call in when we need them, as they know it’s a safe easy working area, allowing them to get the job done quickly and without fuss”. “The two blocks run independently though we use these yards for both as we do with much of the farms equipment” said Lindsay.

“If we lost these yards I couldn’t do my job”

“They create cost savings in labour, time and animal health issues as they don’t get stressed or injured” he says. I’ve been here for more than 30 years and my father did 40 years with the Everton family. We’ve seen the changes mostly good on the farm and in the agricultural sector in general. Good handling facilities are vital and these meet our needs, provide a safe working environment and save money, time and stress. Better than that, our former reputation for wild cattle has gone as you can see from these cows and how easily they flow. If we lost these yards I couldn’t do my job” Lindsay grinned, as water washed off the brim of his hat.