68 years of ewe fairs recalled

With his hand firmly on his mustering stick, J. J. O'Carroll patiently waited for the start of his 68th consecutive Hawarden Ewe Fair last month.

Not only was it Mr O'Carroll's 68th trip to the saleyards, but it was also the 68th year the O'Carroll family had ewes from their farm, Waitohi Downs, for sale.

As the punters filled the races and the auctioneers got ready for a day's selling at the January 31 ewe fair, Mr O'Carroll leaned against the rail and cast his eye over the sheep.

Many things have changed since he started selling ewes in 1946.

''The breeds of sheep are so different now. Sometimes when I look in a pen, I have a hard time knowing what they are.

''Still, it has brought about improvement to the industry,'' he said.

In those early sales, most of the ewes were fine-wool Corriedales, half-breds and merinos. He recalled when a line of his ewes made the top price for the day - £14 a head.

''That was a top sort of a day,'' he said.

Another change is the number of stock agents increasing while stock firms have decreased ''either amalgamating or falling by the wayside''.

When his son took over the farm in 1982, the tradition of selling ewes at the fair carried on and 200 to 300 are sold each year.

While prices were not quite on a par with previous years, Mr O'Carroll said the family was not disappointed.

''I enjoy the day out, looking over the sheep and we got a fair price.''

All told, 7000 young sheep and 15,000 older ewes were presented at the sale. Two-tooths sold for between $100 and $150 and older ewes sold for between $90 and $130.

- Amanda Bowes