When farmer Peter Catley lost his wife Carole to cancer he started doing "dumb things" such as rolling his bike and leaving gates open.

He attended Cranford Hospice's bereavement group "and we all got together and came to the conclusion we were all doing stupid things, which was just normal, and helped us all," he said.

Cranford was also a big help with his wife's battle with cancer.

"Carole only spent one week in Cranford, to get her meds right, and then the nurse came out here every day," he said.


His gratitude to the charity fired him to start the Cranford Cattle Scheme five years ago, which he is wishing to grow with 160 head available.

"I've only got 70-odd cattle out at the moment. The hospice at Palmerston North has about 500 out, but they have been going 20-odd years."

He found out early on marketing required a personal approach. Every farmer in Hawke's Bay was sent a flyer but only three replied.

Cranford Cattle Scheme members received a metal plate for their gate, which sparked conversation.

"You get whole roads that become keen.

"Cranford buys the cattle and I distribute them on to farms. When they are sold the profit goes to Cranford.

"All the cattle are drenched and tagged - everything is done so all the farmer has to do is feed them grass.

"Lifestylers prefer younger cattle and a lot of them grow them to a certain size and I shift them to bigger units that finish cattle."

He said there were no target weight gains.

"You just farm them as you would normally farm them."

He said people could choose the age or sex of the calves, with the minimum two for the sake of animal welfare.

Calves are available all year round and older calves only required 6 months' grazing.

"I've got cattle here that just need three months - for topping off."

He uses his Omakere farm to stage the scheme. Long-term grazing was preferred but if feed ran short cattle could be returned. He recently received 20 cattle from a dry area.

"We are in a pretty big rain belt so even though it was dry I've still got heaps of feed. I work in to suit the farmer - if it's dry obviously I'll leave them here."

"It is a simple and easy way of making money for the hospice. I guess everybody involved in the scheme has been involved with Cranford, so they know how it's helping."

The scheme had several sponsors, including Stephenson Transport and Farmers Transport, Farmlands with free tags, VetServices Waipukurau gave drench and PGG Wrightson agent Brenton Giddens scanned cattle.