The hammer will come down on the sale of the last animal at the Levin Saleyards this month after more than 90 years of stock trading at the historic venue.

For stock agent David Haworth, who has plans for an alternative venue, it was difficult to see the doors close on what was a functioning saleyard.

David Haworth.
David Haworth.

"It was a total shock. It's not a decision I was happy with. It was a boardroom decision based on economics that certainly didn't lie well with me," he said.

The sale yards are owned by Carrfields, which had since sold the land to trucking company Mainfreight, to be used as a freight hub due to its central location near two State Highways and a railway station.

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But while he didn't agree with the decision to sell, Haworth said Carrfields were hugely supportive of the local rural community and had committed themselves to supporting a new venue.

Dave Scaife and Max Haigh inspect sheep on offer at Levin saleyards.
Dave Scaife and Max Haigh inspect sheep on offer at Levin saleyards.

He said Carrfields had welcomed plans to relocate the weekly Tuesday sale to the Levin Showgrounds on Tiro Tiro Road, an existing site owned by the Levin AP&I Association and used for their annual January show.

Once resource consent was granted from Horowhenua District Council, facilities there would be further developed. That would likely mean the erection of cattle pens and a loading bay to complement existing facilities.

"All is not lost," he said.

The final sale at the stockyards on Cambridge Street South would be held on Tuesday, December 17, and Haworth said as a commission agent he would be "shouting a few drinks" to farewell the old place.

Three generations of Clegg at the Levin saleyards - Dayne, William (22 months) and Steve Clegg.
Three generations of Clegg at the Levin saleyards - Dayne, William (22 months) and Steve Clegg.

"Hey, it's sad to see it go. The yards have been maintained in good order and we've ensured that everything works. The gates all swing and shut and are maintained to a high standard."

"It's nothing to do with health and safety. It's simply a boardroom decision and today's economic climate."

A stock sale was not always about business, too. Haworth said it provided a meeting place on a social level and the cafeteria was always kept busy.

"It's an essential part of the rural framework," he said.

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John Richfield, Clive McLaughlin and Murray Spiers share a last cuppa at Levin Saleyards.
John Richfield, Clive McLaughlin and Murray Spiers share a last cuppa at Levin Saleyards.

In its heyday, hundreds of bulls, cows, fat cattle and store cattle, thousands of sheep, and pigs and calves changed hands each week at Levin. Yarding was always at capacity, and there always a large contingent of stock agents attending the sale.

Haworth said many young stock agents had cut their teeth in Levin and gone onto bigger and better things within the industry.

In the early days, it was not unusual for stock to be driven down Liverpool Street or Tararua Road from farms in the eastern part of town.

Gordon Sue and John Henry at Levin Saleyards.
Gordon Sue and John Henry at Levin Saleyards.

Haworth, who had worked at the Levin sale for 40 years, conceded that the rural landscape in Horowhenua and New Zealand was changing.

Many stock sales of its type around country, like Raetihi, Taihape, Patanui and Apiti, had closed for various reasons in recent years.

Christine Jones from Western House Catering takes care of the Stockyards Cafe.
Christine Jones from Western House Catering takes care of the Stockyards Cafe.

Many small farms that were common 50 years ago had slowly been sold to form bigger farms that traded large volumes at stock sales in major sales centres like Feilding.

"There is a wonderful facility in Feilding. It's the biggest selling centre based on through put in Australasia," he said.

Urban sprawl also had a part to play, with many existing farms cut down to form lifestyle blocks in recent years.

Haworth said the Levin sale was viable and filled a void for a rural community that wanted to continue to trade their stock locally, and could also cater to the lifestyle farmer.

"There is most certainly a need for it here. It's crucial that we continue," he said.

John Saulbrey from Carfields takes care of some paperwork in the office at the Levin saleyards.
John Saulbrey from Carfields takes care of some paperwork in the office at the Levin saleyards.

He said the rise of online selling sites had taken trade, but would never surpass the real thing as there was no substitute for looking at the animal you were purchasing in the flesh with a learned eye.

"People like to see an auction, and you like to see the cattle you're buying," he said.

On the last day there would no doubt be stories told, like the day many years ago when several men were leaning back on a rail above a pen of cattle, only for the rail to give way.

Ken Wilson and Wayne Henderson grab a coffee at the saleyards kitchen.
Ken Wilson and Wayne Henderson grab a coffee at the saleyards kitchen.

It was understood they were fortunate the yard was full of cattle to break their fall.