Yard's history reflects story of farming in area

Mt Benger Saleyards Trust members retell some of their memories about the yards. From left is new trust chairman Vaughan Moir, of Teviot, and trust member Peter McDougall, of Millers Flat. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
Mt Benger Saleyards Trust members retell some of their memories about the yards. From left is new trust chairman Vaughan Moir, of Teviot, and trust member Peter McDougall, of Millers Flat. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara

The history of the Mt Benger Saleyards are a reflection of the state of farming in the Teviot Valley, sale yard trust member Peter McDougall, of Millers Flat says.

As the state of sheep and beef farming changed, so did the number of animals put through the yards and the number of sales held.

The yards sit near the old railway station on the Teviot Rd, which fell out of use when the railway closed in 1968.

There had been sheep yards built on the opposite side of the road in the 1920s, at about the same time the Teviot Station was broken into smaller settlement farm blocks for returning soldiers.

Mr McDougall said the sheep yards were still used when the railway closed but have since gone.

''After the railway closed here the farmers put up the money to build the cattle saleyards,'' Mr McDougall said.

''All the area's farmers were shareholders.

''The saleyards are a focal point in the cattle industry in the valley.

''However, it must have been great to see 20 mobs of sheep being driven along the road in front of shepherds and dogs and not having a major mix-up.''

The cattleyards' covered stand was added in 1979, the smoko shed (cafeteria) was built in 1990 and there were records of yards also being upgraded in 1982.

''The auctioneer complained about the cold so we built him an auctioneer's box.''

''When looking through the old minute books it was a hoot reading about what went on at the meetings.''

He said the yards were run as a limited company until 1993,

but as shareholding farmers sold out and moved away and the paper work, reporting and share administration became too expensive and unwieldy, they turned it into a trust.

Mr McDougall said there used to be big adult cattle sale in the spring and two calf sales in the autumn but now only the spring and one autumn calf sale were held, in addition to the odd dispersal sale.

''It is a reflection of the sheep and beef cow herd numbers going down and the changes in farm practice where people wintered their calves and took them right through to export or sold lambs for finishing.''

The cattleyards could accommodate up to 1200 cattle at once and each sale was a social occasion, attracting buyers, sellers and onlookers and Roxburgh Plunket did the catering.

''One thing about the saleyards, Teviot Valley was known for its good stock health,'' he said. ''People got a better return buying our cattle and they came back to source stock year after year.''

The trust charged farmers a yard fee and that was used to fund repairs and maintenance ''with a bit left over in the kitty in case something needed to be done''.

''We did some major alterations last year to be compatible with NAIT.

''We built a raceway to attach the scanners to.''

Some of the original farming families are still members who use the yards. The trust held its latest annual meeting on July 31 and Vaughan Moir, who lives next to the yards at Teviot, was elected chairman, the third generation to do so.

- by Yvonne O'Hara