2 Nov 2018

The New Buzz on Mustering

From Country Life, 9:45 pm on 2 November 2018

The King Country's John Gray has spent years working with sheep. Now he's combining his skills as a stockman, his trusty dogs and a drone to round up feral goats.

John Gray reckons stockmanship is in his blood.

But these days John is turning his attention to feral goats, wild cattle, wild sheep and even wild horses.

Clearing wild goats from farms is about 95 percent of his work now.

John uses his trusty dogs to round the goats up, just as his grandfathers did before him. But he has a modern addition to the team – Kahu the drone.

John has flown Kahu for 2,000 hours and mustered tens of thousands of goats all over New Zealand.

"[The drone has] become a valuable part of our business... It's all about how you fly it and where it's positioned. It's just like a dog, though. You have to have it in exactly the right spots otherwise you won't get them.

"It has allowed us to move animals through rugged places and bluffs and gorse so we can get into a better position to be able to get a hold of them with dogs."

Once the goats are mobbed up and Kahu is back in its bag, John's dogs slowly move the goats to yards where they'll be picked up by a truck and taken to the meatworks.

Their meat is exported and the pay-cheque is split – half to John and half to the farmer.

"It's a win-win for the landowners and us. You know, a lot of the places that are paying to control these now, they are making money out of it."