One man and his dogs

The work of one man over the last four decades has contributed to the eradication of one significant disease and the control and reduction in incidence of another meat quality issue, earning him the respect of his meat industry colleagues.

Geoff Neilson, sheep farmer and chairman of Ovis Management Ltd (OML), has retired after a role spanning 41 years.

Starting in 1971, when he was elected to the Hydatids Council, Geoff contributed not only to the enhancement of sheep meat quality but also to the eradication in New Zealand of hydatids, which caused significant numbers of deaths and hospital admissions in New Zealand.

With the disbandment of the Hydatids Council in the early 1990s, there then became a need for the sheep industry to focus on another parasite Cysticercus Ovis, also known as ‘sheep measles’. The condition was not a human health issue, but was a meat quality issue that had the potential to erode market share and income for farmers and meat companies.

Geoff was the inaugural and only chair of OML until his retirement at the OML AGM on 28 August. OML was established by, and is funded by, sheepmeat processors through the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

MIA chairman, Bill Falconer, paid a formal tribute to Geoff’s lifetime commitment to the meat industry at the recent Red Meat Sector conference in Queenstown.

The OML board has elected a new chairman, Roger Barton, a sheep and beef farmer from Greytown in the Wairarapa.

This article has appeared in Food NZ magazine (October/November 2012).

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