April 23, 2014

New Zealand agricultural history. No 9. Importing exotic sheep breeds

Scrapie confirmed on Mana Island quarantine station
Slaughter of sheep  on Mana Island
Burial of sheep on Mana Island

By Dr Clive Dalton

Slaughter and burial at Mana

The funeral pyre for 300 sheep on Mana Island.  Photo by Tim Harvey

 When the first 300 East Friesians and Finns were destroyed on Mana on 3-4 August 1976, their carcasses were burned, as the numbers were small compared to the flock of 1900 in 1978 that  had to be buried on site.

The sheep up in flames.  Photo: Alan Julian
John Dobbie remembers getting a phone at Ruakura call saying –‘get to Mana ASAP and take two captive bolt pistols with you’.  He discussed this with Ruakura director and veterinarian Dr Gordon Edgar, who told him to keep them well out of sight of the pubic in case somebody saw them and called the cops!  Animal Health Division Livestock Officers did all the slaughter.

John remembers having to arrange for a large barge from Nelson, as local ones were too small to get a D6 bulldozer from Mana beach (the wharf was not strong enough) to Mana Island.  Before the D6 got on board the barge, the driver had to push up a ramp of shingle to get aboard the barge. Getting off on Mana beach was no problem John said.

The barge at Mana wharf used to transport the D6 to the island.  Photo by Tim Harvey.
It was not easy digging in the volcanic Mana terrain and it needed a powerful machine was needed. It took 3.5 days to dig the pit – 50m long x 8m wide x 5m deep, which was bigger than needed but did allow for a cover of 3m of soil. 

The whole slaughter and burial operation took 29 people 2.5 days to complete, including the removal of 300 brains for histopathological examination, as well as recording the number of foetuses present in the pregnant ewes, cleaning and disinfection of the slaughter area – and filming, presumably for posterity. I wonder where the film is now?

The burial pit on the west side of the island.  
Photo by Alan Julian
 Mana is now a very popular Department of Conservation reserve with resident ranger, with an undisturbed population of Weta.  It will never see livestock again.   But one cunning stoat swam there in 2012 from the mainland and was not welcome, and cost many thousands of dollars to get rid of.

MAF staff involved in sheep slaughter (John Dobbie's memory) -  Nick Dimmock, 
Garry Trow, Neville Ames, Don Cameron, Charles Grbic.  
Photo: Alan Julian

The sheep  in the burial pit on Mana Island after counting lambs in utero. The D6 bulldozer is filling in the hole.  
Photo by Alan Julian

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