When 14 hours turned into 60 calamitous hours trucking 33-head from the South to the North Island, the Gilbert family knew they were up against it more than usual at the New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE).
LITERALLY NEARLY EVERYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG, DID.
Just north of Cheviot in North Canterbury their truck’s clutch went, which left them stranded on the side of the road with the cows on-board (top and bottom) from 9.45pm until 3.30am the next morning, when they were towed 92km back to a mechanic’s garage in Rangiora.
CRESSLANDS TO THE RESCUE
The cavalry arrived soon after in the form of the Stewart family, who run Cresslands Farms, just out of Rangiora. Graham Stewart brought their truck in, they off-loaded the cows between trucks in two trips, and took them back to Cresslands. At that point the cows and heifers had been on the truck for 14 hours. The Cresslands team, which include Josh Norton and Andrew Stewart, then got them milked out and into Cressland’s show paddocks on hay racks to rest and recover.
The replacement truck they arranged also broke down (before they loaded up) and they had to find a back-up for the back-up truck. The next truck got to the ferry, only to be turned away because it didn’t have a booking – a booking that Peter Gilbert had an email confirming. But the cows were turned away nonetheless, and had to be trucked 28km back to Blenheim, and unloaded in the saleyards until the booking could be re-scheduled for later that day. They finally arrived in Feilding Saturday morning, having been milked four times in 60 hours.
Glenalla and Snowfed Farms knew they had the toughest recovery to settle their team if everything went perfectly. Let alone if there were problems. They also had the added extra pressure because they were offering their whole team for sale in a “Sell the Show String” Tag sale (excluding their clients’ animals who either boarded at their farm, or who were showing in their team).
The Tag sale format they are using was new for New Zealand, but it is common throughout the world. It involved Glenalla and Snowfed pricing their animals during the week. If the price worked for buyers, they would be sold.
NO PUBLIC ALLOWED
Then, Glenalla and Snowfed – like most of the showgrounds – heard the news that the New Zealand government had gone to the red traffic light COVID-19 protection framework – limiting exhibitor numbers on-ground to 100 (plus event staff).
It was more bad news for a first-time Tag sale that depended on people and energy.
“It worried me when no-one was going to be at the show apart from exhibitors,” Peter said. “It was scary enough doing the sale, I thought, and it became a little bit more scary when there was no public there.”
It’s was another lesson in tenacity and teamwork.
“We had sort of decided if we could get a 50% clearance, we’d be pretty happy.”
They achieved a remarkable clearance, selling 17 of the 21-head they offered (81%) for a gross turnover of around $80,000.
The top price was $13,000 for their four-year-old Jersey, Glenalla Links Clover, who went on to finish third in the four-year-old class which included the Reserve Senior Champion Jersey (and Best Udder of the Jersey Show).
“It’s fair to say we are pretty thrilled with how it went. We always said we were prepared to sell our best, so we showed that we will,” Peter said.
He was also thrilled to see a number of young breeders buy.
“We always hoped that would happen, and that’s why we had some reasonably cheap lots in there.”
When it came to getting the cows out on show day, Peter credited the team around them for being able to turn the cows around in time to have a competitive show.
They would go on and win their first ever Premier Exhibitor banner.
“I was amazed how they came out. It was a real team effort, but I think we’ll all be pretty glad when the cows are safely home,” he said.
The good news is the homeward-bound truck home will only be carrying around 19-head as a result of the sale (including animals that were sold that are going to South Island buyers and some new animals that will board at Glenalla and Snowfed).
Safe travels Glenalla and Snowfed.