Homekill in Southland is humming but competition can be cut-throat. Shawn McAvinue talks to four companies making a killing in Southland.
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
BUSY DAYS: Isla Bank Butchery slaughterman Tim Ellison has no problem filling the chiller with homekill.
Homekill is nothing new but more slaughtermen are surfacing in Southland.
Lumsden slaughterman Ray Orchard said killing beasts has grown his business steadily since he started six years ago.
The sole operator used to kill about four cattle a week and about 140 sheep, but now he slaughtered about a dozen cattle and 60 sheep, and the odd pig and alpaca, he said.
"Eighty per cent was for dog tucker. Now two thirds is for the table."
After the television show Sunday investigated the popularity of homekill in April his business boomed, he said.
Business had been so good he bought a new refrigerated truck.
Mr Orchard slaughtered animals for clients and then recommended a butcher.
Most were dropped off at Lumsden Butchery but now he shared his slaughter among butchers at Riversdale and Te Anau, he said.
Lumsden Butchery owner Lance Carmichael said he bought the butchery in 2006 and continued with the homekill business.
His seven staff were the key to his company's success, he said.
Slaughterman Trevor McMullien said he was empathic when slaughtering animals by ensuring no children or women saw.
He slaughtered about 15 beasts a week but sheep slaughters dropped to about 30 a week when the meatworks gave farmers better prices, he said.
However, lifestyle block owners around Invercargill were becoming a bigger part of his regular clientele, he said.
His partner Catherine Julian free-flow packed the meat beautifully, he said.
The two Lumsden businesses were competing for work in Southland but there was enough work for everyone, he said.
He didn't advertise because word of mouth kept him busy. He was so busy, his 2002 Indian motorbike got little attention.
"It's pretty sad when that sits in the shed with a flat battery," Mr McMullien said.
Mainland Processing manager Shane Bolger said he worked for Isla Bank butchery in Western Southland for four years but started a new homekill business nearby in Riverton in May.
Now there were enough slaughtermen servicing Southland, he said.
“There's a saturation point and I think we are at it now.”
Clients called him, he contracted a slaughterman and then butchered the meat, he said.
About 80 per cent of business was beef, 15 per cent sheep and 5 per cent pigs.
Beef worked out to about $11 per kilogram but the quality of meat fluctuated depending on the condition of the animal, he said.
Isla Bank Butchery owner Craig Hamilton said there was enough work for everyone, even with former employee Mr Bolger setting up in Riverton.
Most beef was slaughtered before winter when the cattle were in the best condition so there was a spike in slaughtering, he said.
He did not advertise and in a busy week his company would kill for 200 customers, he said.
Half the slaughter was beef, then sheep and a few pigs and deer, he said.
Homekill was popular because people got fillet steak for the price they were paying for mince in the supermarket, he said.
Isla Bank butchery slaughterman Tim Ellison said knowing how to walk into a paddock with his .243 calibre rifle was a skill.
"There's a lot more to it than you think. What is the animal thinking? What if he gets toey? Could he jump a fence?"
Aranui Skins managing director Darryl Gerken said most slaughtermen dropped off their skins to his business in Gore.
He sold the skins to exporters in Christchurch and was the only company accepting cattle and sheep skins from slaughtermen, he said.
"Homekill is getting busier and busier every season."
He had owned the company in Gore for seven years and he bought more skins this season than the past one, he said.
When the recession hit in 2008, hides were worthless so slaughtermen threw them away, but good prices returned in 2010, he said.
Prices for sheep skins were falling, mirroring falling wool prices, but the price of cattle hides was stable and they sold well to Italy, he said.
About 15 years ago, the company got 1500 sheep skins but now it was about 350, he said.
Good prices for mutton at the meatworks meant farmers bought rolls or biscuits for their dogs rather than killing a sheep, he said.
He estimated about 4000 beasts would be killed by slaughtermen each year in Southland
Slaughterman numbers were at saturation point, he said.
"There's enough of them out there now. Any more and they'll be fighting for the product
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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