Cattle breeder honoured

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

The last sale and last post.

When the Owaka sale yards officially close on March 21, it will be the passing of the baton from father to daughter.

Well-known breeder of Simmental-Charolais cross cattle Robert (Bruce) Murray died in September last year and his daughter, Bronwyn Bichan, is hoping to continue the family tradition of supplying high quality cattle to the marketplace.

She will be the fourth generation at the family to farm at the Nuggets.

The late Mr Murray spent his entire life in the small coastal rural community alongside the approach road to the now popular Nugget Point lighthouse.

Farming 609ha, he ran a sheep and beef operation that was also a dedicated cattle breeding farm.

“He would always only buy the best possible bulls.

“Dad’s stock was always in demand and it went all around the South Island with a large amount going to Mid Canterbury over the years,” Mrs Bichan said.

Mr Murray mated Simmental breeding cows to Charolais bulls for their superior growth rates.

Appearing in many news and magazines articles written about him over the years, his philosophy was simple: “Feed them and really look after them,” he said.

In an ODT article in 2005, he said his whole operation was geared towards rearing big, bold calves which were well sought-after by finishers.

Now, his estate is leasing the farm to daughter Bronwyn and she plans to honour her father’s legacy by attending the last calf sale at the Owaka saleyards.

“For 30 odd years he has been a regular contributor to the sales, gaining many awards for the top price paid at the annual March sale.

“He was always in competition with his great friend, Warren Burgess, from Owaka, to see whose stock would reach the top price over the years,” she said.

Bronwyn and her sister Debs grew up on the farm and while she stills runs a dairy operation in the area, she is looking forward to the challenges of life and the bigger family farm in the future.

Robert (Bruce) Murray was born in Balclutha and grew up on the family farm.

When he finished at the nearby Port Molyneux school, he went straight to work on the farm.

He was the third generation of his family to work the land.

A keen sportsman, he often represented Paratai and Owaka in rugby during the 1950s and ’60s, finishing in the seniors at Owaka.

“He was right into his rugby, a life member of the Kaka Point volunteer fire brigade and the Owaka Lions,” Mrs Bichan said.

She said he was a strong community man who came from a large family in the Kaka Point area.

“He was always out helping others,” she said.

PGG Wrightson senior livestock rep in Balclutha, Craig Dempster, said he had known Mr Murray for about 30 years.

“He was always very prominent at the front end of the sales,” Mr Dempster said.

To commemorate his passing and his contribution to the community, Bronwyn planned to submit stock to appear in the last calf sale to be held at the Owaka saleyards.

Mr Dempster said the annual Owaka sale had always been highly regarded in the industry and had been seen as an indicator of prices for the coming calf sale season.

“But a combination of the deteriorating state of the yards, health and safety concerns, its low usage and a move to more efficient electronic sales operations will see the annual calf sale move to the Balclutha saleyards in 2020.

“We are planning a farewell function after the last sale on March 21, and hope to host an afternoon of nostalgia at the Owaka Rugby club,” Mr Dempster said.