With National Agricultural Fieldays just two years shy of its incredible 50-year anniversary, agricultural engineering firm The Wrangler is looking back with pride on how far it has come since its own humble beginnings.
Twenty-two years after Waverley and Wilco Klein-Ovink won a Fieldays Innovation Prototype Award for their cattle crush, The Wrangler, the company has grown exponentially in product range, staff, premises and sales.
In 1995, with the saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ ringing in their ears, Whakatane sharemilkers Wilco and Waverley started designing and building a prototype for a machine that would become invaluable in overcoming the challenges of treating lame cows.
“Hooves were dangerous and difficult to do with nothing more than a piece of rope tying the cow’s leg to a railing,” Wilco said. “It was when we witnessed another farmer tying up a cow’s leg, which resulted in her falling and breaking her hip, that we got thinking there had to be a better, safer way to do hooves.”
Wilco built a Wrangler for their own farm and found it was not only invaluable for treating lame cows, but for cows that needed calving assistance as well.
He was persuaded by veterinarians and local farmers to enter the machine in the Fieldays Innovation Awards, and the rest, as they say, is history.
After winning the Prototype Award in 1995, the Klein-Ovinks returned the following year and won the 1996 New Equipment Award.
The Wrangler has won plenty more awards along the way, including several Horizon Business Excellence Awards in 2014 and 2016, and two awards in the 2008 NZ Business Magazine David Awards – Most Inspired Use of Marketing, and Most Innovative or Quirky Business.
From 1996, demand was such that farming soon gave way to fabricating and the couple set up a factory in rural Whakatane. They have moved two more times as the business has grown, settling on a factory in an industrial area on the outskirts of Whakatane.
Staff numbers have increased from just the Klein-Ovinks in the beginning to 12 fulltime staff, plus casuals when the workload is heavy.
The range of innovations manufactured at The Wrangler has also grown to include the Ride over Gate, PollenSmart artificial pollinator, Kiwick Alpaca Shearing Table, Holeshot MX Start Gate, and Wrangler Head Bail.
Despite the growth, the company is still family owned and operated and prides itself on dealing with customers, suppliers and staff with integrity. And the ethos “designed for farmers, by farmers” remains at the forefront of their design improvements.
“Farmers have always been an important part of Wrangler research and design,” Wilco said. “Farmers’ feedback, many of whom have put hundreds of cows through their Wranglers, have helped keep the Wrangler perfectly tuned to dairy needs.”
In 2017, The Wrangler is exhibiting at a massive new triple site at National Agricultural Fieldays – site G33-37 – and with a Fieldays theme of Leading Change, the Wrangler is walking the talk.