Home' Central Canterbury News : July 31st 2013 Contents 16 July, 2013
CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND FARMER
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Hay-maker's long history
HAY-MAKER: Neville Cleland has
been a hay contractor since the
1950s.Photo: JONATHAN CAMERON/
CONTINUED Page 17
By BARRY EASTON
WHILE HIS farming career is
behind him, Neville Cleland s
major claim to fame rests with
the fact that as either a farmer
or a commercial contractor, he has
been out there baling hay for 60
Nor is he done yet. Now living
in semi-retirement in Stratford,
he plans to put his 1967 Massey
Ferguson 165 and baler of the
same vintage through their paces
for a few seasons to come.
Cleland s foray into commercial
hay contracting began in 1953,
soon after leaving school. His dad
was a third generation farmer on
a 400 hectare sheep and beef prop-
erty at Toko, and like most young
men setting out in the world,
Neville looked at other ways of
Contract hay-making or run-
ning a few dairy cows seemed at
the time to be the best options, so
he opted to do both.
My dad took me into the bank
and went guarantor for a loan
that enabled me to buy a second-
hand 30 hp Massey Harris tractor
and a baler of the same make and
vintage, which had to be cranked
to start it. It weighed about two
tonnes, he recalls.
Just a day or two later, I paid
$160 for two tonnes of baling
twine, which was railed down
from Auckland to Gordon Rd
station at Toko. I thought that I
was buying enough twine to last
me for a season, but it actually
lasted for three.
At the same time, Cleland
bought a few dairy cows, along
with a separator, and hand-
milked them on his dad s prop-
erty. By the end of his first
season, he had a herd of seven
and could probably lay claim to
being the supplier of the smallest
volume of milk to the Stratford
While the herd was small, the
returns were excellent, due in no
small part to the fact that his dad
made no charge for those 20 hec-
tares of flat land that his son ran
his cows on.
In 1953, when Cleland launched
his hay contracting business,
many farms, especially those on
steeper country, still used draft
horses for many of the everyday
I sort of came in near the end
of that era," he says.
On one pretty steep property I
called at, the farmer had mown
the grass with a horse-drawn
mower, but there was no way that
I could get my tractor and baler on
the slope where he was working. I
don t think that I could have done
it with a crawler tractor.
Once mown, the grass had to
be swept down onto flatter
country so that I could put it
through the baler.
Cleland can still remember his
first client, George Anderson of
Toko, for whom he pressed 265
conventional bales of hay.
I started out charging one and
threepence (15 cents) a bale, but I
was forced to drop my price to a
shilling (12 cents), because compe-
tition loomed, he recalls.
After that, there was no going
back and when I finished contrac-
ting, 22 years later, I was still
charging 12 cents a bale.
Farmers expect to get a fair
deal, and most tend to check that
they are receiving this by testing
the tightness and weight of the
bales. The first bale to leave the
machine is no indication of what
might follow, however, because
once it has been pressed and
tested, everything gets tightened
up from there.
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