Wrightson Threw Weight Behind Gumboot Scheme
If you give us a calf, we’ll give you a pair of gumboots. It was a bizarre idea for a fundraising scheme.
Two dairy farmers persuaded a reluctant IHC National Fundraising Committee to give it a go and the IHC Calf Scheme was launched in 1984.
Wrightson livestock agents were a key part of the plan to turn calves into cash and, in 1987, the company – PGG Wrightson’s predecessor – became the major sponsor of the scheme. In 30 years, the calf scheme has raised more than $30 million to support people with intellectual disabilities.
It was Taranaki dairy farmer, Norm Cashmore who first offered a pair of gumboots to every farmer donating a calf to the Taranaki branch of IHC. Blenheim dairy farmer, Mick Murphy convinced IHC it would work nationally. Among the rural companies Mick approached for support was Dalgety Crown, soon to merge with Wrightson in 1986. Wrightson embraced the fast-expanding calf scheme and donations topped $1 million for the first time in 1992–93.
After another merger, with Pyne Gould Guinness in 2005, PGG Wrightson was formed – still retaining its strong commitment to the scheme. The scheme changed too. Since 2008, farmers have also been able to donate sheep and beef cattle, and they can now donate a virtual calf, rather than a live beast that has to be collected and auctioned.
The partnership with PGG Wrightson is one of the longest-running sponsorships of a charity in New Zealand, and PGG Wrightson’s expert livestock advice, support and networks have been central to its success. The company’s sponsorship covers the costs of promoting the calf scheme, raising farmer awareness, and calves and other livestock are auctioned at dedicated IHC sales around the country.
PGG Wrightson Saleyards Operations Manager, Neil Lyons, who covers the Waikato region, says IHC and PGG Wrightson work well together and, between them, can tap into a huge network of farmers across the country. “We have a lot of clients who set up their farming pattern around purchasing bull calves. They like to buy the IHC calves because they get a good deal.” Neil says they regard it as good business and ,at the same time, they want to show their support. “It’s huge business for us – and when you talk about right throughout New Zealand, it’s a very important programme for the company.”
Photo: Karen Chapman (left) grew up on a dairy farm at Clevedon in rural Auckland and loves working with cows and calves. Now supported by IHC, Karen is just as happy milking in Jenny and Syd Goodwright’s rotary shed in Ōtaua, or at their daughter, Becky Payne’s farm nearby. (Becky is pictured on the right.) Jenny and Syd have been donating calves to the IHC Calf Scheme since 1995, and Jenny has been a canvasser for many years.
PGG Wrightson livestock agents work with transport companies to coordinate pick-ups and livestock staff sort the animals into saleable lots for regional auctions. At each sale, prospective buyers are urged to support the bidding. At the Frankton livestock sale the first Monday of November is devoted to selling IHC calves. It is IHC’s biggest sale. Last year 505 calves went under the hammer for an average price of $419. Nationwide in the 2016–2017 season, 3,363 farmers donated calves and $1.4 million was raised.
“The Calf Scheme was an inspired idea and we are very encouraged each and every year by the generosity of farmers across New Zealand. This is a particularly meaningful year for us, with the passing of the late great Sir Colin Meads, who backed the calf scheme from its earliest days and showed an absolute 43-year commitment to New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities,“ says IHC National Fundraising Manager, Greg Millar.