We continue with our series on the early days of the meat industry in the Waikato, as recalled by Bill Waring. If you missed it, Chapter 1 is here.
Before I write of the time I became seriously involved in the trade, it would be best to mention the Frankton saleyards plus other lesser saleyards that were strategically located in the surrounding districts, and the important part they played in the lives of those vendors and buyers who attended these markets. They provided apprenticeships in stock buying that were learned the hard way because a wrong-eye assessment of livestock weights could result in an incorrect costly over-bid.
The Frankton Fat Stock sale was held each Tuesday with the cattle and sheep arriving from the surrounding district, having been driven by commercial drovers, or carried by rail.
At the end of the sale the cattle and sheep, other than those being railed on to holding farms, abattoirs or export works, would be driven on foot from the Frankton yards to and along the Great South Road to the Auckland Farmers Freezing Company Works (Affco) at Horotiu. These cattle drives ended in 1948 when Eureka Transport began deliveries from the saleyards to Horotiu by lorry.
During these times there was no such thing as a meat wholesale company and butchers either attended the sale or engaged stock buyers to do the purchasing for them. Incidentally, I am told my father was the first butcher to pay over ten pounds each for bullocks at Frankton. The vendors were the Taylor brothers, whose farm was on Gordonton Rd between Taupiri and Komakorau. I think the auctioneer was the Farmers Auctioneering Co. Was the year 1938 or 1939?
The Frankton Saleyards are owned by a group of shareholders. Stock and Station Companies sell cattle through the yards paying a headage for each animal sold. At the time of my first being taken to the sales there were the Farmers Auctioneering Co., G W Vercoe and Sons, Newton King Ltd, Dalgety Ltd, Loan and Mercantile Agency and Wright Stephenson Ltd, who could act as the vendor’s representative, each farmer having a preferred company to sell his stock (unless the vendor was obliged (indebted) to a particular company and had to sell through their agents).
Outside of Hamilton there were many smaller saleyards owned by one or the other of the stock firms, or in conjunction with each other, but as the years passed they closed, as stock could be moved more easily with motorised transport and sellers sought the more central and better-attended markets.
Affco at Horotiu was a monolith in the meat export business. The manager of the early days of which I write was the well-remembered and respected ‘Chick’ Wells, a man I was privileged to know. Affco Horotiu was a source of employment on a permanent basis to many in the Ngaruawahia, Taupiri and Hamilton areas, and during the ‘Flush Season’ was the income provider during school holidays for many secondary school pupils and university students.
Affco also held the Deed of Delegation to provide slaughtering facilities for meat retailers in Hamilton and also those beyond city limits needing this service. Many of these prior to World War II had had their own slaughter operations, but from the outbreak of war they found their staff seriously depleted. Many such operators, our own business included, found it increasingly necessary to use the slaughtering facilities at Affco.
Carcass stock so prepared was either collected by retailers’ own vehicles or delivered by commercial contractors. Such a delivery company was owned by a Jack Flynn who had the virtual monopoly for this carcass meat delivery service.
After the war many of the rural slaughtering houses gradually closed down. Bill Waring Snr. converted the farm to dairying, and increased the size of the piggery to take advantage of the whey milk available from the new Komakorau Cheese Factory and the rendered foods provided from the increased quantity of bones and fat contracted from other meat retailer shops, including the increased meat trade that Waring’s main and new branch shops were now achieving.
When my turn came to go and buy at the markets, I was taken formally to Frankton three times by my father to meet his peers. I was introduced to some of the finest people that I would ever meet. From then on I went alone, to complete my learning by the mistakes I would make. During the three initial visits, my father made sure that I met most of the regular buyers and dealers, who in turn ‘adopted’ me into the fraternity.