‘Pies’ keeps cattle flowing

Drover Mark Willocks relaxes after a morning working at the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week....
Drover Mark Willocks relaxes after a morning working at the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A South Otago drover nicknamed Pies continues to "keep the cattle flowing".

Mark "Pies" Willocks, of Stony Creek, speaking to Southern Rural Life after the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week, said he first drove livestock at a saleyard in Dunedin to fundraise for Clutha Rugby Club.

The Burnside saleyard had closed but he continued on the profession and has been droving livestock at Balclutha Saleyards for about 15 years.

He farms sheep, beef and deer with his brother, Blair, on a 40ha property where he was raised, about 10km from Balclutha.

Droving was a "sideline"— a way to keep an eye on the condition of stock on the market and an excuse to get off the farm.

Friends Charlie MacLean (3, left) and Jaxx Thompson (2) and his mother, Brooke Miller, all of...
Friends Charlie MacLean (3, left) and Jaxx Thompson (2) and his mother, Brooke Miller, all of Balclutha, leave the auction room at the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week.
"It gives you an outing."

Before a sale, stock agents warned drovers if there was a "hot pen" of "gnarly cattle" to be wary of.

The hairiest moment he had droving was when a cattle beast worked him against pen rails about five years ago.

"There’s no give in those rails. It was the smallest animal in the pen — like a halfback on a footy field, sometimes the smallest bugger can be the worst."

Other drovers used a piece of alkathene pipe to move cattle but he preferred to use a wooden stick, a tool he rarely used.

"It’s like a whip on a horse — you only use it when you need it. It’s for my protection."

Good drovers "keep the cattle flowing" by having "good stock sense".

"I’ve been on a farm for 51 years — so if I don’t have stock sense now, I shouldn’t be farming."

Drover David Copeland moves stock at the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week.
Drover David Copeland moves stock at the Balclutha Cattle Sale last week.
After finishing work at the saleyard, he was returning to his farm to harvest the last of the spiker velvet.

He got his nickname after eating 17 pies in a day, when he was "young and silly".

"A lot of people only know me as my nickname. My mother doesn’t call me Pies, though — she calls me everything else except for Pies," he laughs.

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