August 25, 2014

Agricultural history in New Zealand. Herd testers. Roger Dean

By Dr Clive Dalton

Interest in travel 
 Roger Dean grew up in Gillingham in Dorset surrounded by farms, and was always interested in travel, particularly to Australia or New Zealand.  After leaving school he did a Certificate in Agriculture at the Dorset Farm Institute and responded to an advert in the British Farmers Weekly for herd testers in New Zealand, which seemed an ideal way to achieving his ambition to work in farming and see the world. 

After making application and having an interview and medical checks, he was accepted but then found that herd-testing positions were all filled at that time in 1962.  He was not put off, and was prepared to go to New Zealand as a farm worker until herd testing jobs were available.

Full fare paid
Under the immigration scheme, the NZ government paid his full travel costs, with the stipulation that he was bonded for two years.  He sailed on the ‘Stratheden’ from Tilbury, via the Suez Canal, arriving in Wellington in November 1967.

 Hawera bound 
After arrival in Wellington, he travelled by bus to Hawera where he was met by his employer Reeve Williams and started work milking around 100 cows for town supply, through a double 8-aside herringbone shed. This was very advanced as 75% of  sheds in the area were still walk-throughs with 6, 8, or 10 sets of cups.

After 18 months on the farm, a herd-testing job became available with the Taranaki Herd Testing Association, for the area near where he’d been working.   This required him to go to New Plymouth for 10 days training before starting his round of 25 herds, which were mainly Jerseys.

Standard 10 car
The Taranaki Herd Testing Association provided Roger with a Standard 10 car, and he bought a trailer for all the gear needed for the job. Horses and carts had all been replaced by vehicles by this time in Taranaki, and were only still being used in Northland.
Roger herd tested for about three years before retuning to England for six months and after his return to New Zealand, he went herd testing with a territory around Eureka and Tauwhare. At Eureka his boss was Ken Stone.

Herringbone sheds
Herringbone sheds were becoming very popular in this area, having been developed in Gordonton, although the majority were still walk-throughs.  Equipment had improved with the arrival of the milk meter, which did away with all the physical work of lifting buckets on to spring balances to record milk yield.
Equipment and acid for testing in Hawera was kept at a store in New Plymouth, and the Waikato depot was in West Street, Frankton.  Roger’s boss in Hawera was Cliff Broad and Tommy Hair was his supervisor.

The Waikato herd testers depot in West Street in Frankton in 2014.  The garage on the side was for the first truck owned by the Auckland Herd Improvement Association. Testers came here to renew their supplies of Sulphuric acid, amyl alcohol and replace broken glassware.
 There was only one TV in Roger’s Hawera testing round, so playing cards and talk were the main forms of evening entertainment.  Roger made life-long friends from both the Hawera and Waikato herds he tested, and still corresponds with many of them.

Artificial Insemination 
Artificial Insemination (AI) was just really getting going in the early 1960s, though not in pedigree herds which were the main herds tested, as pedigree breeders saw AI as a large threat to their income made from selling bulls for natural service.

Photo shows LIA veterinarian and AI pioneer David Caldwell (on right) , showing ?? Johnstone and Trevor Bigwood (centre)  the special container developed to transport fresh semen in tubes, packed in a box of ice to go by train, bus and air from Hamilton to insemintors in different areas.

There were times Roger said that he would have liked a permanent base, so when a job was advertised on the sheep farm at the Ruakura Animal Research Station in 1969, he applied and was appointed. 

Long service at Ruakura
After arrival, the farm manger Des Hayward saw his experience and suggested that he would be more suited to working at one of the five dairy farms, and it was at the Number 5 Nutrition Centre where Roger spent the main part of his career, making a major contribution to dairy research at Ruakura before retiring in 2003.

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