An integral part of the Kiwi farm-to-plate journey is the livestock transportation industry. And it requires a savvy mix of skill, stamina and common sense to work in the role. Osbornes Transport in Te Awamutu has an 11-truck fleet, and its drivers have been traversing the country from top to bottom since 1953.
John and Lisa Hamilton took over in 2021, transporting livestock to freezing works, sales yards, herd and heifer shifts and delivering bulls. “Our team loves the variation of work. It’s always a bit of a mystery where you are going!” says John, whose background is in livestock driving and management.
“We operate 11 trucks, and our Isuzu fleet is being slowly replaced with the Swedish-made Scania. We bought two this year. They have a microwave, fridge and TV, so if drivers are out in the boondocks, they can sleep in them. Although we encourage staying in hotels and motels to ensure they can log the mandatory 10 hours in 24 breaks. It’s a nice perk, and this is a great way to see some interesting places.”
Osbornes has 15 staff all up, with Lisa as office manager and John heading despatch – although he’s always at the ready to fill in where needed. “It’s a busy 24/7 seven-days-a-week all-year-round operation, even on public holidays. There’s always something on the go. Sundays are a busy day getting stock ready for the freezing works on Monday.”
“We are always looking for staff who have an interest in the career, and pay them by the hour. It’s great if they have farm experience, but more important to be level-headed and physically fit. They are the face of the company when with the farmers and gain a lot of knowledge. We have two female drivers, and my son Hayden also works for us. Our smaller trucks are used to train drivers before they move up the grades.”
“So if they have shown potential, the full licence isn’t essential to start. Drivers transport and load the livestock on the trucks – some animals can be a bit feisty. We train them up with another driver on things like where to stand, and what to look out for. We load the animals so they’re comfortable, keeping them calm and from wandering off, and look after them well – over and above the welfare regulations.”
“The main challenge is the roadworks holding up proceedings. By the time we get the road report, it’s often too late. Everything is time-critical, as the works don’t have the yard space they used to. It all revolves around time slots. There are good days and bad. Picking up bobby calves can be hard, and sometimes you’ll end up travelling in the wrong direction! Although we use a computer tablet system now which helps a lot.”
The company also support the community, by sponsoring country schools and children’s sports clubs. Local businesses benefit from all the mechanical and engineering work, as there is always something that needs doing such as a Certificate of Fitness, tyres and painting.
Lisa says a few drivers have also taken up photography on the road, entering some amazing photos into the staff competitions and in magazines. “They get to see some pretty stunning parts of the country.”
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