It takes a fair bit of pluck to be a possum shipper.

Just ask Jason Rogers, the West Otago owner of Aotearoa Pest Control, who work with farmers in the area to rid their properties of pesky pests.

He is a country man through and through; throughout his career he did everything from farming to shearing.

But after accidents took a toll on his body, he decided it was time to go back to what he had always done – pest control, a profession he could do at his own pace.

Just like the now trendy nose-to-tail dining experiences, Mr Rogers uses a similar philosophy in his own business.

Possums were picked for their fur and then the meat was sent for pet food, rather than the carcass being “dumped in a ditch”, he said.

Using the animal was something he was passionate about and it was his dream to open a manufacturing business in Kelso, where he lives, to produce pet food and possum fur products.

Like most things, the possum fur trade has been hit by Covid-19 and prices have been down from the usual around $130/kg this time of year to around $100/kg.

Fuel costs increased and the tourist market – a major buyer of possum fur products – was decimated, but that trade would pick up again.

There were huge expenses for anyone who wanted to get into the game; the hand-picked fur market was a “pretty much gone,” so a machine picker was needed.

Mr. Rogers uses a motorcycle to get around and said it takes “a fair bit of fuel” to get to some of his blocks.

He recalled coming home with 200 or 300 rabbits on his bikes when he first came under pest control years ago.

Others saw it and wanted to get into it. But they might last a month, as they discovered it was hard work, he said.

There were other, less tangible benefits; he observed many “fascinating” animal behaviors and enjoyed hearing a return of bird life, including wood pigeons, in areas in which he worked.

Mr Rogers said he sympathized with farmers, many of whom were lame. He knew what it was like to work up to 14 hours a day on the farm and the last thing they wanted to do then was to go out and shoot pests.

“This is when accidents happen,” he said.

He saw first hand the destruction and problems that can occur when pest numbers are allowed to “take off”.

“We’re not out there … for the sake of killing an animal. Everything has a life, everything has to be controlled or we’re going to have a disaster,” he said.

He was particularly concerned about the planting of trees that occur on former farmland, and says that the pest destruction side is not being considered.

“Once the trees are up, they will never get it,” he said, adding that this is especially the case for those trees that will not be pruned.

He could see the “writing on the wall” that something big was about to happen and he believed New Zealand would never reach its target of becoming predator free if the plantings continued.

Plantations of pine trees also soaked up water and, as a former firefighter, he suggested that aircraft should be kept on standby during the fire season because of the potential fire risk.

He was also concerned about the effect on food supplies and the potential loss of jobs in rural communities.

By one day opening his own business, he hoped to create more jobs, buy directly from farmers in the area and create a cycle.

His own children knew the circle of life and he was grateful to know that if they ever got hungry, they knew what they could eat and that they had something to fall back on, like pest control, money make.

His wife was a keen spinner and they also knew how to keep warm with natural fibers such as possum fur and wool.

While he doesn’t have a particular fondness for possum meat, Mr Rogers said it was hard to beat rabbit backstrap, soaked in milk and then roasted or fried. It was “absolutely beautiful”.

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