The history of Gallagher spans back to the early 1930’s when Horotiu farmer and tractor maker Bill Gallagher began looking for ways to stop his horse “Joe” scratching up against the family car. A skilled engineer and inventor, Bill came up with a simple but ingenious system that utilised the car’s magneto to give the horse an electric shock every time it rocked the vehicle. This worked brilliantly. By the end of the decade Bill had built his first electric fence and had made a long term commitment to building a great business that redefined what's possible for its customers – Gallagher.
The early years
Having discovered that animals could be controlled using electric shocks, Bill started work on a battery-powered electric fence unit that could be used to safely electrify wire fencing. He began selling these
devices in the late 1930’s. The electric fence revolutionised New Zealand farming because it enabled farmers to manage pastures more efficiently and at a lower cost than conventional fencing.
By the late 1940’s production of the electric fence unit was well underway. Surrounded by a small but loyal staff and operating from a very basic dirt-floored engineering workshop in Hamilton’s Norton Road,
Bill also diversified into farm equipment like fertiliser spreaders.
In his spare time he started building boats on his garden lawn. His first boat was a 15ft runabout “Taboo”. Then he started work on a 50ft welded-steel-hull boat “Seddon Park”, which later became a fishing
trawler. The next project was the “Hamutana” – an impressive 88ft ship that eventually voyaged around much of the South Pacific.
The legendary energizer is developed
This was the period during which the legendary Gallagher mains-powered fence unit (or ‘energizer’) was developed. An updated version of the battery-powered electric fence energizer, this product became immediately popular because it enabled farmers to extend their electric fence systems to cover an entire farm. Bill spent eight years working on this concept and getting it ready for commercial production.
Meanwhile, the engineering side of the business continued to grow and Gallagher Engineering expanded its range to include more sophisticated farm machinery such as forage harvesters, post-hole diggers and rotary hoes.
In the early 1960’s Bill brought his sons John and Bill (junior) into the business and this unleashed a new wave of fresh-thinking.
Exports begin to Australia, UK, France and USA
The electric fence side of the business continued to grow as not only dairy farmers recognised the benefits of controlled grazing using electric fencing but sheep and beef farmers started to adopt the concept as well.
Farmers overseas also liked the technology. Led by Bill Gallagher Jnr, the company began exporting electric fence energizers to Australia in 1969, to the UK and France in 1972, and to the US in 1974.
This fuelled rapid company growth, with size and production doubling every year during the mid 1970’s. In a bid to increase its production capacity the company moved to the much larger Kahikatea Drive site in 1976 with a staff of 60. By this stage Gallagher was also expanding its range of fencing accessories.
Sales volumes increased exponentially
The golden age of success continued as sales volumes increased exponentially. Export markets were growing rapidly and by the mid 1980’s the company was offering a complete range of mains, battery and solar-powered energizers along with a comprehensive array of fence components.
Brothers Bill and John had taken on a combined leadership role and - backed by a talented, loyal and skilled staff - were making a real name for the company both in New Zealand and internationally.
While Government reforms in the 1980’s all but stymied the farm machinery side of the business, the electric fencing division continued to grow and by 1984 staff had increased to 275.
A decade of diversification and acquisitions
This was a decade of diversification as Gallagher looked to expand into complementary fields. In 1994, two years after Gallagher Engineering was sold, the company added gate and hardware manufacturer Franklin Farm Machinery. In 1999 PEC Fuel Pumps was acquired. As well as fuels pumps, PEC produced security technology products, including the Cardax access control systems.
The purchase of PEC gave the company access to considerable research and development resources that were used in tandem with Gallagher’s existing technology to refine its electric fencing products and develop new radio frequency electronic identification and animal performance systems.
To reflect its growing size and range of business interests, the company was renamed the Gallagher Group.
Bill Gallagher Senior died at the age of 79.
Gallagher recognised as a major success story
Today Gallagher’s agricultural division, Gallagher Animal Management Systems, continues to be an innovator in the field of animal management products. In the late 1990’s the company developed the outstanding SmartPower intelligent fence system and in 2004 it released the first stand-alone, automatic walk over weighing system - DairyScale.
More recently Gallagher Animal Management Systems has become a leader in the production of electronic identification technology (EID).
Over the years Gallagher has won a string of awards for manufacturing and marketing excellence, export success and customer service.
What started as a small family business 85 years ago has grown into a major success story with a staff of over 600 in New Zealand and an international reputation for producing and delivering top quality products.