Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I know it sounds a bit like the old one about the actress and the bishop

I know it sounds a bit like the old one about the actress and the bishop, but have you heard the one about the professor, the lawyer, the two farmers, the stock agent, the driller and the Farming Show host?
And it’s no joke! Rather it’s the eclectic collection of blokes I go duck shooting with on opening morning. With the exception of the stock agent, who was a recent addition because he did all the work and had a good gun dog, the rest of us are a ragtag collection of school mates who all attended Riversdale primary school in the 1960s.
Like many like-minded souls around the country, we gather annually for our ritualistic session of male-bonding, camaraderie and bravado, interspersed with yarn telling, meat eating and beer drinking, interspersed with a very occasional pursuit of the feathered foe.
The normal conversational fare doesn’t vary too much from year to year. Farming, rugby, politics, money, wives, beer bellies, man boobs and the latest local scandal of the day.

This year, however, a new element was added to the maimai musings. Heated debate over the sale of the Crafar farms to the Chinese and whether or not Trading Among Farmers was a good idea. Voices were raised and fingers were pointed, especially in my direction from my sheep farming mates as I’m the only one in the maimai with a financial interest in a dairy farming operation.

I was accused of selling my soul to the Chinese, even though the land-rich accuser had far more to gain from the Asian invasion than the accused. Some timely intellectual intervention from the professor coupled with some judicious adjudication from the lawyer, both sitting firmly in the cross-benches in the maimai, resulted in all parties agreeing to disagree as we adjourned for lunch.

As always, there’s a lull in proceedings after the protein-laden red meat lunch, when the ducks are few and the after-effects of the night before in the Riversdale pub kick in. This year’s gap in the traffic was amply filled by a visit from two neighbouring shooters, both of whom had conceded defeat on the day to the ducks.

To protect his identity and privacy, I’ll simply refer to one of the said visitors as ‘Taranaki’, only because he hails from that region. A larger-than-life and seemingly bullet-proof character, Taranaki had been involved in a debate about the water quality of a creek running through his dairy farm. Challenged the night before in the pub to drink some of the said water to prove its dubious purity, he duly turned up with a jug of the stuff and a bottle of whisky. Both of which he made a fine fist of downing. In the end, the jury remained out on the water quality but either the e-coli or the malt was making him rather unsteady on his feet!

On a lighter note, when all political and environmental differences were finally put to bed, the day concluded with the awarding of the inaugural Mackay-Shallard Trophy for Kaweku’s Next Top Pond (Kaweku being the small district the two respective fourth-generation sheep farming families hail from). While we had doubled our tally from the previous year, we still found ourselves 30 shy of the Shallard pond’s record haul.

Surprisingly, few ducks escaped unscathed from the Mackay pond this year, albeit I’m sure some met their maker through cardiac arrest rather than good marksmanship. So we had to eat humble pie and accept we were beaten by a better pond on the day. A case of a Fitzy full credit, take it on the chin, move forward together and whatever other rugby cliché readily springs to mind.

To that end, plans are already afoot to extend the pond and purchase more electronic gadgetry to lure ducks in 2013. Only 355 sleeps to go!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. jamie@farmingshow.com


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