The cattle sales would start in September and there would be up to 10,000 cattle sold from the big government blocks.

Kaitaia stock agents Sloane Livestock celebrated 25 years in business at the weekend.
More than 150 people gathered at the Kaitaia Golf Club at Ahipara to mark the occasion, including guests from as far south as the Waikato.

The independent company features a four-leafed clover as its logo and founder Roger Sloane says the company has needed some Irish luck at times to stake out its territory in Northland.

"It was only a matter of time before someone started in Kaitaia so I decided to have a bit of fun and give it a go," Roger says.

Advertisement

He says other companies tried to stop them being able to sell at Far North saleyards, but eventually they were allowed in and now their cattle make up more than 50 percent of the yardings at many of the Far North saleyards.

The Sloane family is now into its fourth generation of stock agents.

Roger's grandfather, Henry Sloane, was the first, establishing Loan and Mercantile in Kaitaia in the early 1900s.

Roger's father, Leo Sloane, was the second and Roger followed, after stints in dairying and building.

Roger worked for Dalgety's and Wrightson's as a senior livestock agent before starting Sloane Livestock in 1994. Now 76, he has never missed a day of work and no one can remember him taking a holiday.

Family affair

Roger's sons, Leo and Harley, both work in the company as stock agents while daughter Helen is saleyard administrator and another daughter Nicole runs the office. Balancing out the company are auctioneer Owen Hinkesman, farmer-stock agents John Guest and Craig Murray and Whangarei-based stock agent Vaughan Craig, who is a new addition to the team. Jane Walter and Tereina Leaf also help in the office.

Leo is now one of the top store bull marketers in Northland and lives in the Whangarei area. Harley lives in Ahipara so he can cover the Far North clients.

Advertisement

However, there is a lot of cross-over and their work is about finding the right cattle and matching them with their buyers. Phone calls from dawn until well after dusk are their lifeblood, as deals are put together and trucks are organised.

Leo says the job is all about building a network of people "and that never changes".

Sloane Livestock has monthly sales at Broadwood and Peria, and a weaner fair and spring fair at Houhora.

Far North cattle are mostly exotic breeds such as Charolais and Simmental and are valued for their ability to "shift" or grow well. There are also a lot more dairy beef cattle sold.

Huge cattle drives

Roger fondly remembers the huge cattle drives by Ken Lewis down Ninety Mile Beach to Whangarei.

About 1800 cattle would be walked over about six weeks and delivered to their buyers along the way. Many cattle also used to travel by train.

"The cattle sales would start in September and there would be up to 10,000 cattle sold from the big government blocks," Roger says.

Those numbers have dwindled as land use has changed with large farms being replaced by forestry.

Technology has changed the job as well, with all the cattle being weighed at saleyards so the buyers know exactly what the cost will be per kilogram.

Leo says he does a lot more trades "in the paddock" and he uses the video function on his mobile phone like a notebook.

"I take videos of all the cattle so I can look back and know what they look like and show the buyers."

Compliance is a big part of the work, with all cattle having to be scanned and NAIT records kept up to date to record cattle movements.

Roger says in the old days it was easy to split a pen if a farmer only wanted to buy half. Now the cattle would all have to be scanned again.

He credits the company's success with their fair dealings and friendly manner.

"If you wouldn't buy cattle for yourself, don't buy them for your client," Roger says.