Early Sheep Farming and Shearing
In December l927 we did our first shearing at Mangatangi. In those days before machines were introduced we relied on the Maori who were good blade shearers. I well remember Rangi TeWhare and Toi Katipo doing a good days work, about 50-60 sheep a day.
The late Mr. Donald Shanks helped us to handle and press the wool. The wool press at that time consisted of four plough chains hung from the roof and attached to corners of the pack. Later on we improved on this method and made a box similar to the bottom half of a modern press.
Later on we introduced a hand shearing machine but the job of turning it was a jolly sight harder than the actual shearing. Volunteers for the turning were not too numerous.
In the early 1930s the late Mr. Tom Bell bought a Moffit Virtul two stand machine and erected in our shed. This machine was engine driven and instead of the modern gut drive, was driven by thin steel shafts. It also had narrow gear hand pieces not seen in this country for a number of years. This might have been one of the first machines imported into NZ. It gave quite good service up until after the war in a neighbours shed. This old machine was driven by a horizontal petrol engine of doubtful parentage and vintage but with constant help of Fred Shuker as mechanic, we always got through the job.
In 1937 we installed Lister Machines electrically driven. The sheep population of the district at this time was increasing and the farmers who had shorn in our shed were building their own.
As this was the only shed at this time with machines, many of the neighbours used to bring their sheep to be shorn, and I well remember seeing the flocks of Messrs. Tom Bell, A.E.Waller, Tom
Hogan, Howse and later Shuker Bros go through the shed. Everybody in those days was a shearer and when a back gave way another shearer grabbed the hand piece and so we carried on until cow time. We’d then make a start on 80-90 cows, not forgetting to also feed the pigs.
We were lucky in those days and were never invited to join the shearers union.
At dipping time some of those farmers brought their sheep to us for the treatment. Not the easy job it is today. Water had to be carried from the river in drums and sheep man handled four at a
time into the tipping pen. About a thousand per day was our limit and it certainly was a day.
Now when the lambs were ready to market, the buyer would come in and give us a price in the paddock. We had to deliver them to Pokeno Station. This was a droving job. A daylight start and newly weaned lambs meant a hectic ten hour journey to Pokeno, not to mention the two wire fences in places. Then wait for a truck, load them and by that time it was evening. The train left about 8 o'clock.
About the middle of the l930’s road transport for stock was making its first appearance on the roads. 80 fat lambs was the average load, the cartage price about 6pence per head was paid by the buyer. He was making a fine profit on this as we walked about 4 or 5 pounds off these lambs on their way to Pokeno.
By Mr. Jack Cummings.