Ag Journalist Ken Strugnell talks to Sam Bell from Lake Coleridge, who bought Te Pari Products first Cattle Drafter.

At the South Island Field Days on their new sight at Kirwee I spotted a fascinating new product from Te Pari; a Cattle Crush and three way electronic Drafter. What was of real interest was their innovation of ‘hanging the crush’ on weight bars mounted in the roof of the crush [see pic]. I asked Jeremy Blampied, Marketing Director for Te Pari Products, if they’d sold any yet? “Yes we’ve just delivered the first one to Sam and Cathie Bell from Lake Coleridge” I was keen to see one in operation and so in early May I visited the Bells to find out just how well the new concept was working.

“Numero uno, number one. No one else has got one YET. I got the prototype” smiles Sam as his warm welcome contrasts starkly with the weather.

The Bells own and run Ben Lea Station, 1100ha, which rises from 450m to nearly 1000m above sea level an hour west of Christchurch.

“It’s good country when the zephyr isn’t blowing” says Sam. “The sheep, cattle and crops all do well here and I vary my farming program each year to suit both the season and the seasonal demands and prices”.

That ‘zephyr’ was in residence, the day I called. Rain was imminent and when it came, it was the very heavy driving stuff spurred on by the 130km/h Canterbury nor’westers.

Ben Lea has been planted strategically with shelter belts for stock and the cattle yards benefit too.

In the ‘lea’, by the yards Sam opens up about why he bought the three way cattle drafter.

“For me, having got used to a five way electronic sheep drafter/handler to use mainly on the up to 10,000 finishing lambs we buy in, as well as our other lambs and ewes, it was a simple decision to make to a similar set up for the cattle operation on the farm. I spoke to Tom [Holt] at Te Pari, who told me they had just completed their new model. I liked the design particularly the suspended weigh platform that hangs from the top of the crush. That meant the load bars were kept clean and well out of the way. It made for a lower step onto the platform and is easier for the stock. Unlike anything else I had seen the Te Pari one has the head bale open to allow the stock to walk forward through left, centre [straight ahead] or right gates”.

I watched as the heifers ran through on to the weigh platform, were quickly weighed and then simultaneously the head bale slid back as one of the three gates in front were opened, depending on the weight or EID reading, to seamlessly allow a one man operation.

What was immediately obvious was the speed simplicity of operation and the hushed quiet nature of the new drafter’s compressed air system. Sam told me the compressor was a couple of hundred metres away in the woolshed where it did double duty to power the sheep drafter.

“Less labour, more accuracy with the computer set parameters on age, weight, sex or a combination of them, safety for both stock and staff and more intangibly a great sense of satisfaction at a job well done” says Sam in answer to a question, Why? I had yet to ask. “I believe after researching the market that the Te Pari Drafter is the best available, because it addresses the safety of the drafter by automatically and mechanically, taking over that function. In doing so it reduces staff levels to one needed to work cattle in the yards. In addition as I mentioned earlier I get accurate weight/date records in the process which allows all the other decisions such as feed management or supplementary feed as well as slaughter dates to be accurately assessed.

I don’t always follow traditional farm practice instead I like to judge the season and plant feed such as the fodder beet and kale for the winter, you can see over there and I also add a Lucerne Rye Corn mix to my perennial pastures. This seems to suit this country and has allowed the diversification into dairy grazers on the property.

It was in fact the need for regular weighing of them that nudged me into acquiring the new Cattle Crush and Drafter” said Sam.

“Most of our weighing has traditionally been done prior to Christmas, though with the ease of use of this set up now we have the option to fine tune the system to ensure even greater utilisation of both the scales, but more importantly our stock need and stocking levels by monitoring their growth more regularly.

Having had the same system in use for my sheep operation I know the savings that I have achieved so far and think that they will replicate into our cattle farming”

Looking at the blue topped covered Te Pari Drafter it’s easy to see the difference with all the traditional drafting products. Firstly it’s combined with a cattle crush, making it almost double the length, which allows all the functionality that has to offer. Secondly as the head bale gate opens by compressed air, the choice of three yards has already been made allowing the cattle to walk calmly off the weigh platform and forwards without an operator having to quickly change gates, for these too are air driven. Thirdly Te Pari has a world first in both joining the functions together and suspending the crush platform on weigh bars above eliminating dirt build up and making the platform lower. In practice it really works seamlessly.
I chatted with Tom Holt at Te Pari who said they are happy to help upgrade existing Te Pari Crushes and yards and will trade in Te Pari Brand product.

As we drive over some of the lower parts of Ben Leas its clear Sam and Cathie are early adopters of new innovation and trends. I liked the wide lanes, which run over the farm. Easy movement of stock on firm footing with metal tracks for vehicles and at 50 plus metres they double as paddocks. “I didn’t set out to buy the first one It just worked out that way and after all someone has to be first to try the new gear” chuckles Sam

Even though Sam has the only one in the country, at time of writing, it’s obvious that his excitement and belief in Te Pari’s new baby will be echoed many times across the country. Indeed as the product is further refined I suspect many of its innovations will find themselves mainstreamed into other Te Pari Products.