Work shop beckons after retirement

Neil Gamble has retired as a long-serving representative for CRV Ambreed. Photo: Supplied
Neil Gamble has retired as a long-serving representative for CRV Ambreed. Photo: Supplied
Momona-raised Neil Gamble has shifted three times in his life - the furthest being 3km away.

Yet through his work as a representative with CRV Ambreed, he has travelled extensively throughout the South Island.

''I may well have travelled the world but I haven't moved very far,'' Mr Gamble (73) joked yesterday.

He has retired after two decades with the company, his most recent position being regional sales and services manager for the lower South Island.

The dairy industry was a sector that was in his blood; he grew up on a small dairy farm on the Taieri and later farmed in the area with his wife.

His family's involvement with the industry dated back hundreds of years. His paternal grandfather came from Northern Ireland and his family had been dairy farming going back into the 1700s.

Mr Gamble left school at 15 and by 1967 he was leasing the small family dairy farm and added two neighbouring farms to the operation over the years.

The business was too small for permanent staff but was ideal to run as a husband-and-wife team, he said.

He also did some agricultural contracting work to provide additional income, something his father had started firstly with a threshing mill and then hay-baling.

There were some challenging times. In the first 26 years of farming, parts of the couple's farm were under water 27 times. In the big flood of 1980, even the house was under water.

Some of the property was below sea-level and it was for that reason he did not farm it ''to the absolute maximum''.

It was not so bad today as there was much better pumping and drainage on the Taieri and farmers could farm more intensively than he could, he said.

Mr Gamble was keen on restoration and went to polytechnic to learn panel-beating and spray-painting.

He was approached by a tractor company asking if he would take over painting its tractors and he ended up painting 550 tractors over about eight years, working for various tractor firms.

He would work on them between milkings and, as the job got ''bigger and bigger'', it gave him the confidence to get out of the farm.

By then, he was middle-aged and had tired of seven-day-a-week farming so he sold the property in 1996 and bought a block next-door with large covered sheepyards, which he converted into a workshop.

Mr Gamble had used CRV Ambreed semen on the farm and when the company approached him to see if he would be interested in being a company rep, he thought it would keep him in contact with farmers.

So he started in a part-time commission role and when his tractor painting suffered, he found someone else who was keen to do it, which freed him up.

In 2009, the move was made from commission to salaries for the reps and they ''rocked ahead'' gaining a lot more sales by being full-time and more visible.

Over the years, Mr Gamble has had stints working throughout the South Island, encountering some ''wonderful people''.

''It's been a real honour working with them and they have all gone out of their way to welcome me to their farm,'' he said.

The business of herd improvement had changed a lot in 20 years and it had been exciting to see the new innovations and technology coming through.

''We [CRV Ambreed] started with a small catalogue of bulls and pretty much stuck with that. Today farmers working with CRV Ambreed have access to a huge selection of bulls, as well as herd testing, herd recording, AI service, DNA testing, A2 milk testing and a raft of other stuff to support dairy farming,'' he said.

Now his main aim was ''to try and get back into the workshop occasionally''.

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