A LONG and successful career in the livestock industry came to an end earlier this year when Nutrien Livestock, Mt Barker agent Charlie Staite called time on his career and hung up his boots and the green shirt for a final time.
Over his 43 years in the livestock industry, working for both the green and the red teams, Mr Staite has seen plenty of challenging times but also many good times.
"You don't remember the good deals but you certainly remember the bad ones," Mr Staite said.
When it comes to the good times Mr Staite believes the industry is experiencing the best of them now.
"We have never seen the livestock industry so good, not even in my grandfather and father's time," he said.
"We have been seeing store steers sell upwards of $2000 and ewes at more than $250.
"It is seriously good and hats off to the industry.
"Even if it does come off a bit (the price) it is still good and there is money to be made."
While he was sad to say goodbye and sell his final sale in March, Mr Staite couldn't be happier with how his career has panned out.
"It has been a great journey over the years in the industry but I couldn't have done it without some great people along the way," he said.
"It really has been a pleasure to work in the industry.
"Every community we (he and wife Leanne) have lived in was so welcoming and I learnt so much in each area.
"In agriculture everyone is on the same team in the industry which certainly made it a pleasure to be involved in."
Mr Staite's time in the livestock industry goes back just over 43 years when the kid from a cattle property in Northcliffe made his way to Perth and started working for Wesfarmers in its office in Wellington Street, on January 2, 1979.
Along with working in the office Mr Staite also spent five months working at the Midland Saleyards in his first year with the company, learning the trade in the cattle, sheep and pig sales.
From there he went to Northam for a year and worked under John Wilson, who Mr Staite said was a terrific mentor.
"I learnt a lot from John, he was a really good mentor," he said.
After learning the ropes in Northam in 1980, Mr Staite got his first posting in 1981 to Wongan Hills where he spent two years.
Mr Staite said having grown up in Northcliffe it was a bit strange going to the Wheatbelt and it took a bit of time to get used to.
"It went from counting how many boats were in the shed to counting how many planes farmers had," he said.
"It was just at the time when broadacre farming was starting to take off in the Wheatbelt.
"While cropping was just taking off in a big way there was still very big numbers of livestock in the area and we were holding monthly sheep sales through the Wheatbelt.
"We loved the time we spent in Wongan Hills, the people were so welcoming."
After two years in Wongan Hills, Mr Staite and his family was on the move again in 1983 when he got a transfer to Mt Barker where he worked alongside Harry Carroll (branch manager) for the first time.
"We were in Mt Barker for two years and at that time there were a lot of sheep in the area," he said.
"I can remember regularly doing big export runs as everyone was running Merinos for wool."
From Mt Barker it was back to his home territory of Manjimup in 1985 for three years and it was halfway through this period Mr Staite changed shirt colours and joined Elders and worked alongside Orest Luzny.
The next move for the Staite family came in 1988 when they moved with Elders to Darkan.
Mr Staite said Darkan was a very big wool area at the time and it was exciting times to be involved in the wool industry as it was when woolgrowers saw prices hit 1000 cents a kilogram.
After a year in Darkan, Mr Staite moved to Katanning in 1989 in the role of senior livestock representative and auctioneer before getting promoted to Katanning branch manager in 1990, a role he stayed in for four years.
Mr Staite said he had some of his best and worst times in the livestock industry while in Katanning.
"When I started the wool and Merino industry were really strong and I was involved with some big Merino studs sales with the likes of Barloo, Haddon Rig etc, which was great," he said.
"Then the wool reserve price scheme collapsed in 1990 and it became a terrible time as we saw the implementation of the flock reduction scheme.
"During this time I oversaw the destruction of 100,000 sheep in my role as a CALM assessor.
"In the weekly sales we saw yardings of 20,000 to 30,000 sheep and they were selling for 20 to 30 cents a head.
"It was a heartbreaking time for all involved in the industry as we had seen prices of $100 a head in 1989.
"It was the hardest time I probably ever saw in my time on the job.
"The crash in the market really had an effect on the Merino studs, it was tough going for them and hard to watch.
"But all credit to those studs which stuck with their breeding programs during this time as it wasn't easy."
After three testing years in Katanning, Mr Staite rejoined Wesfarmers in 1992, when he was offered the Mt Barker agency with Harry Carroll.
They created Carroll Staite Agencies, a partnership that lasted 30 years until Mr Staite retired in March.
"It has been a great ride and a pleasure to work with Harry for the past 30 years," he said.
"We built a great agency together over the 30 years but we did have some great people that helped us along the way that certainly assisted in setting up the business.
"Being private agents allowed us to be masters of our own destiny.
"It allowed us to market ourselves and show we had a point of difference when it came to marketing livestock compared to our competitors.
"We have sold sheep and cattle all round Australia and being able to do that was a big game changer for our business.
"Over the years we managed to build up a big network of contacts across the country and that has certainly played a factor in our success."
Between them they covered an area the size of Kangaroo Island with Mr Staite looking after clients to the north and west of Mt Barker and Mr Carroll those in the south and the east.
They also had clients outside the area which they had taken on over the years due to the relationships they had made along the way.
The passion that Mr Staite and Mr Carroll had for the livestock industry in Mt Barker also saw them as big pushers for a new set of saleyards at Mt Barker and as a result they had a lot to do with the planning and design.
"We toured New South Wales with the Shire of Plantagent looking at saleyard designs to work out what worked and what would be best for Mt Barker," Mr Staite said.
"Building the new yards was the best thing the Shire of Plantagenet could have done.
"It was a big investment but it has certainly been worth it.
"They are state-of-the art and certainly take in best welfare practices."
And it was when the new saleyards opened, that sales went weekly, which Mr Staite said was fantastic for producers in the area.
"But there was a drawback to moving to weekly sales as they quickly discovered we couldn't do everything in five days and our working weeks then became seven days," he said.
Mr Staite said cattle numbers in the area had come back over the years as the higher prices have seen people exit the industry to capitalise on the high prices.
When it comes to producers marketing cattle Mr Staite said he had also seen a change in their approach as a result of prices.
"For a long time every cattle enterprise had a little feedlot and they would finish their own calves," he said.
"So our year revolved around grainfed cattle in autumn and spring time was for lambs.
"But once producers started getting $1000 a head for their calves they no longer worried about finishing them."
When it came to the sheep side of the business Mr Staite and Mr Carroll were also leaders in the field, being some of the first agents in WA to sell lambs to the Eastern States and this opened up a whole new market for their clients.
"In 1992 we were selling lambs to a South Australian processor at 16 to 17 kilograms dressed, then the weights increased to 17-18kg and we were getting $8 per head premium over the 'real' market and that was huge," Mr Staite said.
And it was at this time that Mr Staite believes producers swung away from wool production to prime lamb production.
Mr Staite said because they had built up these relationships with the Eastern States and were getting premium prices they started to have people knocking on their doors.
"We had also built up a relationship with Roger Fletcher after having their trip to NSW to look at the saleyards and he hadn't built his Narrikup abattoir, but it was coming," he said.
In the late 1990s the pair started working with WAMMCO and stopped sending lambs to the Eastern States.
"We would market our lambs as a block of 150,000," Mr Staite said.
"We also changed the way producers presented their lambs to the buyers and for slaughter.
"We made sure they were all pre-drafted before the buying run, they were all crutched and all had access to water in their pens.
"We really influenced the animal husbandry practices of our producers to ensure they could get the best results possible and that built our business enormously."
They later broke away from WAMMCO and developed a partnership with Roger Fletcher when he opened his Narrikup abattoir and Mr Staite would go and buy the lambs for Fletchers.
Mr Staite said Fletchers coming to Narrikup in 2000 was not only big for the local sheep industry but the entire WA sheep industry.
However in the past decade they have returned back and have had forward contracts with WAMMCO for their lambs.
There were a couple of things Mr Staite has noticed during his time in the industry and the first is that the young farmers of today are now very well educated and switched on.
"They are making smart and informed business decisions because now there are such big turnovers involved," he said.
The other change is in the quality of sheep and cattle producers are now breeding.
"The genetic improvement in both cattle and sheep industries has been massive," Mr Staite said.
Mr Staite believes this year was the right time for him to step away from the industry but it had been hard as you feel you were no longer relevant as the phone wasn't continuously ringing.
"But I think it has been the right decision for both myself and my wife Leanne, who has been a constant by my side through this whole journey," he said.
"Leanne has been just as involved with the agency through the years and I couldn't have done what I have done without her.
"Over the years we have missed a big part of our children and grandchildren's lives so we are looking forward to spending time with them and we are also looking forward to doing some travelling as we have been restricted on that front as well.
"It will also give us more time for our hobbies including campdrafting, we have never been able to really relax and stay around for the camaraderie afterwards due to the job.
"Our plan is to stay in Mt Barker on our property.
"We're not looking at leaving as it is such a great community and we want to get more involved and give back to the community."
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