Cattle sales at Kauri saleyards in Whangārei ceased last week with a big offering and full benches of vendors, buyers and spectators drawn from the past 75 years of commercial activity.
Many BBQ beef sandwiches were consumed and tales told after about 800 yearling steers went through the ring.
The buildings, pens and walkways are showing their age, with No Entry signs scattered about.
PGG Wrightson, as the majority shareholder, said declining numbers of cattle make refurbishment uneconomic.
Chief executive Stephen Guerin said calf sales will continue in the lower pens under a canopy roof but all the bigger pens and above-ground structures will be demolished over time.
Shorter travel requirements for calves have been factored into retaining Kauri for that purpose.
No consideration has yet been given to a possible sale of the site but in previous saleyard shutdowns, such as those in Addington and Tinwald, alternative industrial uses have been found.
PGG Wrightson and its partner in the National Saleyards company, Carrfields, will continue to hold weekly adult cattle sales at Wellsford and Kaikohe, for the benefit of Northland farmers.
“The facilities with scales and live streaming are more popular with vendors and buyers,” he said.
National Saleyards, based in Hamilton, is a joint venture operating company for Wellsford, Kaikohe, Dargaville, Tuakau, Masterton and Feilding.
It carries out health and safety inspections regularly and the requirements are becoming stricter, especially around elevated walkways, kick boards, rails and any gaps that might pose a risk to children, Guerin said.
“We take our saleyard responsibilities very seriously because that’s where farmers do business, and we have an ongoing maintenance programme.
“But we also have to acknowledge the market realities of changing preferences for electronic yards and sales.
“Our business involves saleyards, but we have to provide a safe working environment for members of the public and those who work there.”
The biggest vendor in the final sale was David Holwell from Phoenix Farms at Whareora, near Kauri, with over 500 steers, drafted into Hereford-cross, Simmental-cross, Belgian Blue-cross and Charolais-cross, all out of dairy cows in the South Island.
Holwell, a former Super Rugby player with the Hurricanes and Blues, had not decided where to take his annual draft next spring – to Wellsford, Kaikohe or perhaps an on-farm sale.
Prices on the day were down on last year because of the lower beef schedule and most sold in a range from $1000 to $1200.
Top prices were made by Angus steers, at $1310 and $1360.