Rural Week NZ

Thieves in the Night: Secrets of a Modern Day Stock Rustler

Here's where New Zealand's $10 meat packs come from.
May 30, 2017, 3:38am

I had always been curious about rustling. There were constant stories of my old man and his friends getting up to mischief back in their days. Growing up on a farm, I knew I had the necessary skills. I had seen my cousins' '$10 meat packs' and knew that they were guessing their cuts of meat. They buzzed out when they saw me break down a mutton with only a knife. Amateur butchers.

It happened to be my cousins who first gave me my first opportunity to join in on their hustle. We took a long drive through the dirt roads to a farm that they had already scouted out. With only a rough plan, we jumped out of the station wagon ready to go. We had planned to grab four mutton that night but only ended up having room for three. It was pretty much what I imagined it to be, the thrill of the kill is what I was after more than anything. I had always enjoyed hunting, and this was hunting made easy. I only ever went out twice again with those dudes. They were a bit haphazard for my liking and I wanted to be more of the in-and-out type.

Lamb or mutton are generally the easiest to grab, gut, and breakdown.

I've mainly targeted lamb or mutton over my time. They're generally the easiest to grab, gut, and breakdown. In saying that, beef is certainly my favourite to eat. But rustling beef takes a bit more effort, and brings more heat. I remember doing a beef once, it was hanging in a chiller at the back of my uncle's staying cold in the winter weather. We waited four weeks before we broke it down, four months before selling it. Luckily, he didn't know it was there. We ended up doing a deal with another uncle, who swapped it for a truck engine. He had beef for his son's 21st, and we had an engine. Naturally, we kept the nicest cuts of meat for ourselves. One time I swapped eight legs of lamb for four legs of venison. I prefer to trade the meat for something else as opposed to selling it. I believe the money is an unnecessary validation that a crime was committed, in-order to profit in a monetary way—aka evidence.

Our arrogance was to be the undoing of it all.

My last time doing it, I learnt my lesson the hard way. I had my Saturday sussed, but I should've seen the warning signs. The trailer was locked away, not like it usually was. The cage was down the back of our property. We spent more time than we should have to get prepared, and I was distracted thinking about the party that I really wanted to get to. We successfully grabbed four lambs and had them in a trailer at my house. We shot off to the party and left them in the trailer, to be dealt with later. Our arrogance was to be the undoing of it all. When we got back from the party, we discovered that our catch that night had managed to escape. They ended up in a neighbour's farm, who caught us in his paddock trying to catch them. He confronted us and we thought we had convinced him that they were our property. Unbeknown to us, he had seen the ID tags on the lambs and recognised whose lambs they really were. He alerted the farmer whose stock we had rustled, and my father. Needless to say, they weren't all that impressed. But the cops weren't called. I haven't done it since and don't really plan on getting back into it, unless need be.

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