Feilding Hospitality Needs Farmers

The Friday Feilding sale yards are a good day for livestock, but the same cannot be said for pies.

Saleyards Cafeteria owner Jamil Hammoud said the return of the sale yards when New Zealand, excluding Auckland, went into level 2 was a reminder of how important the farming community was to the Feilding hospitality industry. Their impact was especially noticeable after the sale last week, the first in over a month that up to 100 people could attend.

Hammoud has owned the Saleyards Cafeteria for several years and said many businesses in Feilding would not exist without the farmers' weekly sales.

This was the third sale yard under level 2, but the first that allowed 100 people, and the turnover in town was significantly more noticeable, said Hammoud.

Without the sale yards, the cafe was operating at 50-60 percent, and the town wouldn't return to normal until the farmers could return, he added.

Offering takeaways helped Hammoud through level 3, and he was able to keep all his staff.

With the sale yards back on, Hammoud and his team could barely keep up with demand. They nearly ran out of milk for coffee as well, he said.

Andy Smith travelled from Dannevirke, an hour away, to attend the sale. Smith had been a farmer for over 30 years, and during the last 13 years, had been attending the sale yard.

He said it was good having everyone back.

It was also a chance to connect with other farmers and enjoy the town. He and 10 other Manawatū farmers had a standing reservation at a nearby cafe.

The lower North Island livestock manager of PGG Wrightson, which managed the sale yards, Steve Wilkinson, said farmers only sold about five percent of what they usually would during the lockdown.

Not being able to sell stock became an animal welfare issue, particularly if the feed was damaged. At peak times, up to 70,000 sheep were sold a week. At last week's sale, it was about 7000.

An online platform was available for people to attend the auctions virtually, and it was gaining popularity, said Wilkinson, but it didn't beat attending in person.

Manawatū-Rangitīkei president for Federated Farmers, Murray Holdaway, said day-to-day farmers might not have been impacted by Covid-19 as other industries, but the sale yards were a significant part of farm management.

Holdaway had spoken to Rangitīkei farmers over lockdown who didn't have enough to feed their stock because the food had been damaged by pests.

In those situations, farmers need to sell, he said. Without the sale yards, that was difficult. Even with a private sale, it would be hard to know the value without the auction.