Years of hard work now paying off

Lumsden-based crutching contractor Mason Adams says the best part of his business is getting...
Lumsden-based crutching contractor Mason Adams says the best part of his business is getting around the countryside and working alongside farmers and shepherds. PHOTO: ALICE SCOTT
Southland-based crutching contractor Mason Adams left school as a 16-year-old and grew up quickly working in shearing sheds. Now, 18 years on, he has a busy mobile crutching run and last year more than a million sheep were crutched over his trailers. He talks to Alice Scott about his journey into business.

Mason Adams is the first to admit school was not the place for him. "I spent a fair bit of time wagging class to work in the sheds and I decided in fifth form (year 11) I was probably better off leaving school and going shearing."

He learnt the skill of the trade around Southland sheds working for his grandfather and uncle who had a shearing run and in his late teens he joined his uncle and went shearing overseas.

When he returned, there was a two-stand crutching trailer for sale and he found himself the boss of his own mobile crutching business at the age of 21.

Now, 13 years on, Mr Adams’ business has continued to grow, and he has worked hard to keep on top of his gear to ensure he is running a slick and efficient operation. Several changes have been made to the crutching trailers over the years when he has found the sheep aren’t running on as well as they could be.

"Many a long hour has been spent while crutching up on the trailer thinking ‘how can I improve this?"’

He now runs a five-stand operation with three and two-stand trailers connected together and also has a single stand for the smaller jobs.

On a good day he and his team can crutch about 8000 sheep. "Farmers tend to like it being all tidied up in a day."

A crutching trailer also offers a farmer certainty of the job getting done and in less time than it would if they were crutched across a board.

"You need to have dry weather and empty ewes to drag them across a shearing board and an in-lamb ewe needs to be off feed for 24 hours. Whereas with a crutching trailer 1500 ewes can be brought in wet and full at 8am and back out on feed by 10am."

Having good staff has been key and four years ago he added a tailing run to his services which has allowed him to employ staff year-round.

He has several staff who have been working for him for five to seven years.

A loyal prop for the Mossburn Stags senior rugby team, Mr Adams has played about 120 games for the club and doesn’t plan to finish any time soon.

"I enjoy it for the social aspect. It keeps you in touch with the young ones in the area and I also find the odd worker among them."

Being on the handpiece himself is the best part of the job. "I really enjoy getting out to the farms and having good yarns with the farmers and the shepherds. There’s always good banter."

He has forged strong relationships with his farmer clients and considers many of them good friends. "Some of them have been with me since I started out and I will call them just for a catch up."

Despite the decline in national ewe numbers, Mr Adams’ phone is ringing more often and he and his staff will travel throughout Southland and Otago, often staying away for four or five nights at a time, which he conceded was getting a little harder to do now he has 2-year-old twins.

"Everyone keeps asking how business is ... but I seem to just be getting busier."

Whatever the reason, he has risen to the challenge with the ultimate end goal to buy his own farm.

"Although with the way things are at the moment, I am not rushing into that," he said, with a laugh.

Mr Adams credits his uncle and grandfather for mentoring him through his early years of business ownership and latterly his wife, who is an accountant.

"She has been helpful at analysing the cash-flow and can see where the best efficiencies are made."

His advice for those keen to make their way into business ownership in the rural sector was simple: "Get out and give it a go. Work hard and prove yourself to the farmer. Farmers are very loyal people, and they will give you a shot and stick with you if they can see that you’re not afraid of a bit of hard work."