Newspaper Article 1977 – Lambs not woolly enough so rejected

Lambs not woolly enough so rejected

Mutton slaughtermen at the Whakatu freezing works today rejected 1200 lambs because they did not have enough wool on the inside of their legs, the president of the Whakatu sub-branch of the Meatworkers’ Union, Mr Michael Kitchin, said today.

Mr Kitchin said the lambs were a safety hazard. Rejecting the lambs stressed the urgency of overcoming a problem of short-woolled and freshly crutched Iambs and sheep, he said.


“It appears that Ministry of Agriculture hygiene regulations demand a high standard of presentation for slaughter which is causing a safety hazard to slaughtermen,” he said.

“Farmers have been compelled to crutch the inside leg of sheep and lambs for even minute dags.

“This conflicts with the safety of mutton slaughtermen because there is no wool to hold while legging.”

He said the meatworkers’ award set no criteria for short-crutched and shorn stock except to say that all stock should be a minimum of three weeks off the shears before slaughter.

“Some breeds of sheep and lambs are slow wool growers and this means that they could in fact take up to five weeks to grow sufficient wool for safe slaughter.

‘Some short-crutched stock has been returned to farms and farmers are asked to make sure that all sheep or lambs have a minimum 9.5 millimetres of wool on the inside of the leg.”

Appeals have been made by the union, Federated Farmers and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company to farmers to try to overcome the problem.

In December the company told farmer clients that some farmers were making such a good job of cleaning up inside the hind legs that there was insufficient wool for the leggers to hold during dressing.

Tomoana men still out

No sheep or lambs were killed at the Tomoana freezing works today because of a dispute in the fellmongery.

Fellmongery workers walked out yesterday afternoon. As a result all sheep and lamb killing ceased and follow-on departments stopped.

The president of the Tomoana Freezing Workers’ Union, Mr John Harrison, said a shed meeting was held this morning and the men decided not to go back to work until the company made a “decent offer” over the incentive payment in the department.

The union saw the company later in the day and will take the results of the talks to another shed meeting at 7.30am tomorrow.


Mr Harrison said there were about 100 men in the fellmongery and from 500 to 600 workers were out of a job as a result of the dispute.

Beef production is continuing normally, as are some other departments such as the lamb-cutting room.

The general manager of Nelsons N.Z. Ltd, Mr Michael Sanders, said an incentive scheme for the fellmongery department had been sent to the Industrial Commission for its approval with the full agreement of the department workers, the union and the company.

“At the moment the scheme is in a situation where it can’t be altered,” he said.

The company would meet the union to discuss the department’s grievances and try to solve them in terms of the award and the production incentive scheme.

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These articles highlight the difficulties that farmers encountered when sending stock to the freezing works in the 1970s and 1980s – changing regulations that may or may not have been conveyed to the producers; constant strikes, often for seemingly trivial reasons, and over which the producers had no control; strikes that occurred without prior warning, resulting in stock in transit having to be returned to source at the owner’s expense and stock in yards losing condition while disputes were being sorted.

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

8 February 1977


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • John Harrison
  • Michael Kitchin
  • Michael Sanders

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