VALE: Lewis (Lew) Adrian SMIT, OAM
Born: Perth, September 13, 1943
Died: Kojonup, April 23, 2021
THE beef industry lost a leader and mentor when Lewis (Lew) Adrian Smit, OAM, passed away at Kojonup last month.
Mr Smit was not only a gentleman and cattle breeder of the highest integrity, but also one of the great contributors and pioneers of the modern Australian beef industry.
He was born in Perth on September 13, 1943, the second son for Peter and Anne Smit and younger brother to Graeme.
The family initially lived in Osborne Park where Mr Smit's father ran a sawmill, the wandoo and jarrah timber supply coming from the family's 4000 hectare property at Sawyers Valley - the tree-felling and land clearing undertaken becoming the forerunner to the Smit's passion for farming.
When the State government resumed the property as part of the catchment area for the Mundaring Weir, Mr Smit's parents bought virgin land in the Koojan Siding area of Moora in 1958.
When this occurred Lew and his mother stayed on in Scarborough, where the family was now living, as Lew was in high school at Perth Boys School, while his father and elder brother Graeme lived in a caravan and shed at Koojan for 12 months as they built a house and cleared land on the new property 'Annadale', to grow crops and run stock.
While the Koojan property was being developed, Lew had a taste of farming on the weekends, now studying years 11 and 12 at St Ildephonsus College, New Norcia.
Lew had farming in his genes and gained much cattle knowledge from his father who was the second person to bring Murray Grey breeding cattle into WA in 1963 from Mervyn Gadd at Wodonga, Victoria.
Those imported Murray Grey's led to the formation of the Koojan Hill Murray Grey stud, with the Koojan Hills Angus stud started shortly afterwards.
Seeking a higher rainfall area for breeding stock, the family sold 'Annadale' and moved to a partly developed property in the Keysbrook area in the mid to late 1960s.
In 1974 Lew and wife Rowan (deceased) with their sons Peter and Adrian, sought a larger area of land with better soil types, finally choosing a property at Kojonup.
Lew was a highly regarded cattleman and as a result of the family's stud cattle success, he was held in high esteem across the Australian cattle fraternity.
He was always looking for the best way to improve his cattle - a trait he pursued all his life, using AI to broaden the genetic base and choosing very carefully which bulls to use.
Lew's approach through life to the cattle industry was to embrace knowledge and balance the new with the traditional.
As a result of his approach of continual improvement, the family's Angus and Murray Grey studs obtained numerous State and national records.
Auction sales of bulls and females for the studs started at the Knutsford Selling Centre, Kojonup, in 1978, with four other Murray Grey and Angus breeders continuing at that venue with other breeders until 2007.
From 2008 to 2011, Lew continued to host his annual Koojan Hills Angus sale at Knutsford before making the decision to go to an on-property sale for the first time in 2012.
Sales continued onfarm at Koojan Hills for the Angus stud until his final sale at the helm of the stud in 2016, after it was announced in late 2015 the stud had been sold to the Metcalfe family, Manypeaks.
So highly regarded was the Koojan Hills Angus stud, the Metcalfe family described the family's chance to purchase the stud as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
The Smits sold the Koojan Hill Murray Grey stud in 1994 to Karridale stud cattle breeders Cliff and Penny Owen and son Sam.
Along with running highly successful studs Lew wasn't afraid to step up and give back to the cattle industry both locally and nationally.
In WA his contribution to the industry can not be underestimated as he was involved in a number of groups over the years including the United Beef Breeders' Association, the Knutsford Bull Trials Committee, the Consultative Committee for the MRC project in Breedplan, the organising committee for the first Meat Profit Day in WA in 1996, the Angus Branded Beef Project in WA, over-judge and course instructor at several Cattle Assessment Schools at Harvey and hosting veterinary students from Murdoch University for onfarm experience.
On a national front Lew was a board member of the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society for 16 years, including president from 1980 to 1984 and an Angus Australia board member for 21 years, including president from 1991 to 1994.
He also served both societies as treasurer, each for four years.
Lew's dedication to both breed societies was recognised with him being awarded honorary life membership awards from the Murray Grey Society in 1987 and Angus Society in 2008.
A highly-respected judge of cattle of all breeds and types, through the years he generously made himself available to judge at Royal and country shows throughout Australia.
He also judged at prestigious events in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
When judging he was always very encouraging to all exhibitors and very authentic and honest in his appraisal of the animals before him.
Lew was also influential in the development and implementation of many of the genetic evaluation tools that are available in the industry today, including Breedplan and its associated technologies.
He was perhaps the ultimate enthusiast and supporter of the benefits of performance recording and objective selection.
And a visionary in both what was needed, and what was practically possible, to enable breeders to make best use of the available objective tools to assist in the genetic improvement of their herds.
As Lew's involvement grew to include Australia-wide commitments, his wife Rowan became the home mainstay of the two studs and the farming enterprise, helped by their two sons.
Some years ago, Lew's sons said all their memories of growing up on the farm involve their mother and father as the perfect team, always together, working unbelievably hard to build the stud.
"When dad travelled to build the brand, mum stayed home, the combination of dad's technical expertise and work ethic, and mum's true grit and eye for quality, resulted in an amazing achievement," they said.
The loss of Rowan in 1997 was a hard time for the family but Lew did marry again in 2003, divorcing in 2017.
His significant contributions to the cattle industry both locally and nationally saw him recognised with a number of awards and most significant of these was the Order of Australia Medal which he was awarded in 2013 for his services to the cattle industry and to the community of Kojonup.
Lew was also awarded the prestigious RW Vincent Award in 2006 after being nominated by the Shorthorn Society, as he was the Shorthorn breed inspector for sales entries for some years.
The RW Vincent award is given very occasionally for exceptional service to the cattle industry over a long period of time.
And fittingly, he was a three-time winner of the Strathtay Trophy, which is awarded by the WA Angus Committee chairman and given in recognition of an individual or group's success in promoting the Angus breed.
Lew was awarded the trophy in 1993 and 2016, while the Koojan Hills stud was announced the winner in 2003 and the wins signify the high-esteem in which he and the stud was held, by three different chairmen over 22 years and by his fellow Angus breeders.
He contributed significantly to various sectors of the cattle industry over many years and also to the Kojonup community in which he lived, including the Hospital Board that he chaired for some years and also the Rotary Club including assuming the role of president in 1995/1996 and was a Paul Harris Fellow.
Lew is survived by sons Peter and Adrian and families.
Credit: Lew Smit's eulogy was supplied and written by long-time friends and fellow former Angus cattle stud breeders Pam and Jim McGregor, Harvey.