Kaikoura farmers have thrown their support behind a Marlborough family, following a lockdown tragedy.

The Murray family of Matariki Herefords in the Clarence Valley donated the proceeds from the sale of one of their bulls at their recent annual on-farm sale to the family of Ward farmer Gavin Dowling, who died on the first day of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The bull, nicknamed "Gav", fetched a healthy $10,500, James Murray said.

"Gav was a friend and neighbour and he and [wife] Rosie were a good young couple and they have three young kids. It's a really sad story.

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Dowling, who grew up in Hyde and attended St Kevin's College in Oamaru, before leaving to study at Lincoln University, died on the farm while his wife was at Starship Hospital in Auckland with baby daughter Olive, who has Ebstein's anomaly, a rare heart condition.

"A Givealittle page has been set up and people have been really generous, so we decided to put a bull up and it got a good response," Murray said.

The Givealittle page has raised more than $280,000.

The bull sale, combined with Woodbank Angus, got off to a flying start with the first lot selling for the day's top price of $42,000 to Glenbrae Herefords in Hawke's Bay.

In all, 56 out of 64 Hereford bulls sold for an average of $9089.

"It's been one of the worst seasons for a long time with the drought, but the bulls have come through really well.

"There was a huge crowd and some good buying for everybody with a few top priced bulls and some good chunky hill country bulls."

His grandfather bought Woodbank farm at Clarence Valley in 1900 and the farm was later divided after World War 2. His uncle took over Woodbank and his father established the Matariki stud in 1953.

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Murray and his son Jack farm 1400ha, with a mix of hill country, flats and 60ha of irrigated land.

They run 560 stud Hereford cows and several hundred commercial cows.

The annual sale is combined with Woodbank Angus, run by his cousin Johnny Murray and his three sons.

Woodbank sold 55 Angus bulls out of 59, with a top price of $16,000 and an average of $8018.