Final sheep sale held at Allanton saleyards

Dave Ross (81) has one last cup of tea at the Allanton saleyards, a place he has been coming to...
Dave Ross (81) has one last cup of tea at the Allanton saleyards, a place he has been coming to for more than 40 years. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Retired stock agent Dave Ross reckons a play could probably be written about the Allanton stock sale.

For more than a century, the sale has been a meeting place for farmers, whether buying or selling stock - or after a chat.

But that association has now ended, with the last sheep sale being held at the saleyards, south of Mosgiel, yesterday morning.

Mr Ross (81), who has attended for more than 40 years, described the decision to close the saleyards as very sad. Ironically, it was one of the larger yardings and there was a ``reasonable'' farewell, he said.

A barbecue lunch was served by the Taieri Lions Club as those attending reminisced.

``All the old farmers kicked tyres and told lies,'' he quipped.

While unsure exactly when the saleyards was established, Mr Ross said there was mention of a horse sale there in 1907, so it had been over a century ago.

The land was bought by Donald Reid and Co, which assembled the yards, and initially it was a horse sale, before moving into sheep.

Mr Ross joined the Otago Farmers Co-op in about 1969 as a stock agent. It merged with Donald Reid and Co in 1974 to become Reid Farmers and, following further mergers, the saleyards site was now owned by PGG Wrightson.

In its heyday, the Allanton sale had some large numbers offered, with more than 20,000 sheep yarded at some sales, and many ``characters'' in the rural sector attended.

Mr Ross recalled one memorable lamb sale at which there were thousands of lambs and the Taieri River began to flood.

``As we were selling, the water was going up and up and up.''

By the time the sale was finished, and the last lambs were being loaded, they were walking through ``nearly a foot'' of water.

Over the years, the numbers of sheep declined, as dairy cattle numbers increased in the area, and the sale went from weekly to fortnightly and then monthly. Balclutha and Waiareka (Oamaru) still had a weekly sale.

With the increase in the number of lifestyle blocks in the area, Mr Ross believed the sale's closure would pose a problem for lifestyle farmers.

PGG Wrightson regional livestock manager Otago John Duffy said the sale's closure marked the ``end of an era''.

Mr Duffy talked to a man yesterday who recalled his father buying a Clydesdale horse there 93 years ago and riding it home bareback.

Mr Duffy said the closure was a ``sign of the times'', while another issue was the location of the yards on the flood plain.

The land would be sold.


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