World famous in New Zealand: Saleyard Tour, Feilding
Twice a week, Manawatu Manawatū farmers pour into the middle of the pretty town of Feilding to empty or fill their trailers and stock trucks with the sheep and cattle that are sold at its busy and long-established livestock market.
They reckon it’s the oldest in the country, running since 1880; and that it’s one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
Certainly, dogs and people funnel thousands of sheep and hundreds of cattle through the saleyards each week, and the air is full of baaing and mooing – as well as that other distinctive indication that you’re in the presence of large numbers of farm animals.
You can go along by yourself to watch, but it’s really worth paying for a tour with a retired local farmer who can explain what’s going on, tell you what to look out for, and deliver entertaining yarns along the way.
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You know how important sheep and cattle are to our economy – and our national self-image – so it’s good to get connected and find out what it’s really like up close and personal.
You’ll be astonished at the prices these animals fetch, and perhaps a little appalled that the price per kilo is unfeelingly displayed in a readout above the poor steers in the ring. It’s fun, though, once you’ve got your eye in, to guess how high the price might go for those woolly jumpers in the pen. Literally millions of dollars’ worth of business is done here every week. It’s also a good game to play to see if you can pick who’s bidding as quickly as the auctioneers’ eagle-eyed spotters do: farmers aren’t known for flamboyance – just look at their uniform of stout boots, mud-coloured jerseys and baseball caps – their bidding can be a subtle affair.
The tour will last as long as your interest does, from a scant 30 minutes to a couple of hours for those who really get into it.
Wear gumboots if you’ve got them (and not just for the mud). Otherwise, wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Don’t make any sudden movements during bidding or you might end up taking home more than memories.
ON THE WAY/NEARBY
Feilding is full of delights: there’s also a Farmer’s Market in the town’s Manchester Square on Friday mornings (you can get your homemade cheese and ciabatta there before or after the saleyard tour). It’s a historic place, and they’re very big on museums – there are separate ones for trains, classic cars, clocks, motorcycles, traction engines, carriages and farm machinery, printing … Plus there’s shopping, art and astonishing range of eateries. And no traffic lights!
Just $10 a person for the saleyard tour. Bookings through the Information Centre are essential.
BEST TIME TO GO
The guided tours take place only on Friday mornings. For a really full market, go outside of lambing time. See feilding.co.nz.