Bruce Gordon Contracting delivers feed to Auckland Zoo

A world away from the herds of cattle and sheep he usually deals with, Mike Hancock is now helping feed some of the world’s most stunning and endangered animals

The 23-year-old is joint operations manager for Bruce Gordon Contracting, north of Marton. Earlier this year, the company received a phone call from Auckland Zoo, almost 500km away.

 A rhinoceros eats hay at Auckland Zoo

The zoo was after a new supplier of hay and lucerne to feed its Asian elephants, zebras, rhinos, giraffes, and nyalas.

“Typically, we field calls from farmers or strawberry growers. Getting one from Auckland Zoo was very exciting,” Mike says. “Bruce Gordon had a chat with them and after a couple of phone calls and a few emails, it was all go.”

Auckland Zoo is home to 135 species and more than 1400 animals. Since April, on a bi-monthly basis, Bruce Gordon Contracting has been delivering required quantities of feed sourced from Manawatu and Canterbury farms.

Mike Hancock

“We supply them with all their hay and lucerne for their elephants and ungulate species,” Mike says. “They chew through quite a bit, but they are great to deal with.

“We are really focused on the quality of our product.” Auckland Zoo is home to some of the world’s most endangered animals. Quality control and biosecurity is a top priority.

The deal isn’t Bruce Gordon Contracting’s first foray into the Auckland market. The company supplies 54 truck and trailer loads of straw within a three-month period to strawberry growers and mushroom farms.

“We try to do three unit loads a week. We cart as much as we can ourselves, but we also use a local freight company to give us a hand,” Mike says.

A young giraffe calf runs past hay at Auckland Zoo

“On a truck and trailer, we can usually fit 750 conventional bales, 72–78 big square bales or 44–50 round bales.”

Making hay and baleage is the ‘bread and butter’ of Bruce Gordon Contracting. The company produces between 6000 and 8000 round bales and 8000 and 12,000 square bales in a typical year.

Mike started with the company as a casual driver and is in his second season as joint operations manager.

Equipment used at Bruce Gordon Contracting

“My role involves driving, speaking with clients, and sourcing work for our team of staff, which can climb to 13 people during the peak,” he says.

“Bruce takes care of the majority of the admin, which is really good.” Mike is a NZ Young Farmers member and has always had a passion for tractors and big machinery.

He got his learner licence and left school at 15, securing his first job on a sheep, beef, and mixed cropping property near Marton.

“I bought a moped and rode that to and from work each day for six months until I got my restricted licence,” he laughs.

Baleage is sold to farmers across the North Island

Agricultural contracting has given Mike the opportunity to travel. He spent a season in Western Australia seeding crops. “It was a real eye-opener. It was a great experience and excellent opportunity to learn how other farmers do things differently,” he says.

“Most of the paddocks over there are at least 200 hectares in size. It’s massive compared to what we are used to here in New Zealand and it’s all flat as well.”

The sector is facing a shortage of drivers and Mike is urging people to consider agricultural contracting as a career.

Loaded and bound for Auckland Zoo

“It’s a really cool sector to get into. It’s a rewarding, attractive career choice and is a fantastic way to see different farms,” he says.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Mike’s job is working with local farmers who he describes as “really good buggers”.

The company sends hay and baleage to farmers across the North Island, especially those in the Taranaki region and southern Hawke’s Bay.

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