Bryan Hocken

September 2008
Bryan Hocken is a former Taranaki Fed Farmers president , unofficial Mayor of Tarata and local character. In heartland dairy farming country hes carved out a niche for himself as a sheep farmer and local spokesperson on farming issues.

Over the years hes fought an often colourful battle in the media against the Fart tax and dog micro-chips to name a couple of recent farmer issues.

Bryan has what he calls a 1200 acres lifestyle block about 22 km from Inglewood. He runs 2,500 ewes and produces 18 month in-calf Hereford Friesan Angus heifers for the local market. He has a son and daughter in-law working for him. Hes spent a fair bit of time and money on improving the look of the property with an ongoing programme of tree planting.

Bryan says in general is has been a very hard season for sheep farmers in Taranaki. He says prices for everything are rising while returns are dropping, putting the future of some in jeopardy.

"Weaners are down $100 to $150 an animal. Costs are going up all the time - food, power, fuel, fertiliser, everything.

He says that in June he was selling lambs for $30. That's only $1kg liveweight. The same lambs got $60 three years ago. With the price at the supermarket, farmers are getting screwed."

Cattle condition is quite bad in the district too with in-calf rates poor.

Bryan has just finished scanning his ewes. He says some in the district are down 20% or so after a really hard season with the drought. His figures are better than that. Hes around 8% down on this years scanning with 3.6% drys. He puts that down to the Auckland Romney Development Group (ARDG ) rams hes been buying over the last 5 years. The ARDG was formed in 1968 and currently consists of five Romney breeders in Auckland, Waikato and Northland. ARDG works closely with Chris Morris at AgResearch and focuses on breeding high producing, facial eczema tolerant sheep.

Bryans chuffed with his ewes and pleased to be on top of the eczema issue.

He is about to start pre-lamb shearing something he started 20 years ago with the Robin Kid - the current New Zealand Woolboard Shearer Training Manager and Executive.

The Wool Company Ltd with Former Telecom boss Theresa Gattung as chair has got Bryan a little skeptical.. The idea is to improve wool returns for farmers but he says theyve heard it all before.

"Let's hope this one is different. A few years ago woolgrowers spent $3 million on a report and the woolgrowers got nothing out of it. We are running out of time.

"When I left school 40 years ago I had an ambition to be a wool baron. It hasn't happened."

Bryan supports the merger as long as it was in farmers' best interests. "It needs to be, otherwise it shouldn't happen." He says something serious needed to be done to improve the price of meat produced by farmers.

"What has happened in the last 12 months (falling prices) to hill country farmers is real serious.

"Anything is going to be better than what we have got at the moment," he said.

Bryan says the price of superphosphate nearly doubled over the last month or so- adding further cost burdens to struggling sheep and beef farmers.

The fertiliser shot up from $266 a tonne to $511, a hike of around 90%. Twelve months ago it was only $193. "International prices started to track up 18 months ago but have surged more dramatically in recent months," he says.

Bryan says this further big rises would be a disaster. That would mean nobody could put any on. Therefore contractors, aeroplane pilots will go off shore.

"If it ever does come back again, there won't be any guys to sow it."

Bryan has only recently stepped down from his leadership role with Taranaki Federated Farmers. He took on the position in 2005 having previously served as vice-president. Prior to that he was Meat and Fibre Section chairman from 1998 to 2002. In all hes been with Feds since 1975.

The local branch has approximately 1500 members. The boundaries are Awakino, Tahora and northern Wanganui. Taranaki province prides itself on being willing to stand beside its members on issues that are considered to be unreasonable and unfair.

It liasies with four councils and strives to be proactive rather than reactive.

The main issues are rates, ETS and animal ID. In his time Bryan railed against fart tax and micro chipping of farm dogs. He led a protest to parliament had threatened to let his farm dogs urinate on the steps of Parliament buildings.