Topic: Dick the professional

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A story by Lial Bredin

Dick the Professional

 Dick like many other people made his living from buying and selling.  In his case it was from buying and selling livestock.  He specialized in buying cull cows, in selling weaners and occasionally he traded in store lambs.  He had skills that the normal salesman lacks.

 He could judge the weight and health of a cattle beast by looking at it.  Together with the occasional poke of his finger into its ribs.

 He also needed other assets.  He held animals for a period so that they could increase weight.  He needed the use of grazing properties within a radius of ten miles from New Plymouth.  Like other grazing land the areas had to be spelled and fertilized.  Some of them needed to be close to the sale yards where the stock trading took place.  It was the sale yards that were the source of his cattle.  He was lucky in that he had a Mangorei base.  There was a family trust farm of 100 acres, which extended from the Mangorei Road down to the river.  He had the grazing of this property.

 He must have worked closely with a freezing works in the past because he had the skills of a works buyer.  He also had a relationship with the Waitara works.  Not only did he have the lease of a holding paddock on land belonging to the works but he also had killing space held for him.  When he had cattle ready for slaughter.

 He was a very clever user of the trading rule.  "Take the quick profit."

 When a farmer sends culls to the work he does not sell them as individuals.  They are sold as a pen of animals.  Cattle culled from a herd are held separately in a paddock.  There they will put on weight under the easy conditions.  Other culls are transferred to the cull paddock until there are six or more cattle.  The animals that have been culled recently will not be very fat.  When these cattle are offered for sale they will all be held in the same pen.

 The price paid will allow for the lower value of the lighter cows.

 If Dick bought this pen of cows he would immediately select the fatter cows and send them straight away to the works.  The price received for them should be greater than the average per head price paid for the pen.

 The lighter culls will be held on a grazing block until they have reached a profitable weight.

 Slow payment is not usually a problem.  Dick usually bought through one of the stock firms and would receive monthly accounts.  He sold culls to the freezing works, who paid within two weeks of slaughter.

 His weaner calf trade was somewhat different.  Dick bought weaned calves from farmers, usually through the stock firms.  He held and grazed these calves over the winter and sold them in the following late spring.

 Usually the buyers would hold these older animals over until the next year.

 If Dick did not have enough grazing of his own he would make arrangements with some farmers to graze his weaners over the winter.  One very successful venture was when he was able to winter graze the weaners on paddocks of swedes at Bartle Bros.  They were breaking in large areas of land on the Wiremu Road.

 The sale of cull cattle was a tricky business.  Cattle were ultimately sold by weight at the works.  A heavy animal is obviously worth more that a light animal.  But the buying price per pound could change every week.  It could even change during the week.  Prices could be higher at Inglewood than they were at Stratford a couple of days before.  Dick could buy at Stratford and then find that there was a quick profit to be made by selling at Inglewood.

 Timing during the year was important.  At the end of the milking season farmers would be selling most of their culls.  The per pound price would be lower.  In the late spring and around Xmas the per pound price was usually higher.  Dick had to balance the feed available on his blocks against the per pound price offered.

 In practice Dick was very quick at taking the quick profit.  He felt that a small profit taken immediately was better than a possible higher profit.  This might not happen some months later.

 He applied this to cull lambs as well.  Malcolm can remember Dick buying a thousand store lambs at the Awakino Lamb Fair.  He immediately went through the mob and selected 250 of them fat enough for the works.  They were immediately trucked to Waitara.  The rest were moved to the nearest of his grazing paddocks.

 The auctioneers thought that Dick was a bit of a character at sales.  Vendors offering stock have a right to bid on their own stock against possible buyers.  In principle it is similar to a reserve price.  But only in principle.

 One auctioneer remembers Dick taking up a position behind a post so that his head and neck only were showing.  He made the occasional verbal bid.  At the same time one hand was making buying signals to the agent on the lefthand side of the ring.  His other hand was signaling to the right.  At times there could be extensive bidding against a sole buyer.

 Dick had another bidding practice.  He had lost a finger on one hand and only had a stump left.  When he was bidding a shilling he would hold up a finger.  If his bid was for sixpence he would hold up his stump.


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