David Plant had acumen, passion and vision.
News of his death on June 19, aged 56, sent shockwaves through many cattle-breeding families across Australia. His artificial breeding operation, Southern Cross Genetics, provided services across five Australian states and included King Island, Tas, and New Zealand.
SCG was a family business owned and operated by David and Kym Plant for 25 years. Their practice based from Vic’s Phillip Island inspired loyalty. Te Mania and Hazeldean Angus Studs were early, now life-long, clients. Ian Moreland’s 22 years with SCG speaks in the same vein.
“This business is our life’s passion – it’s dynamic and exciting,” ,” the SCG website proclaims.
David was a constant breath of fresh air in the artificial breeding world: an instigator, a developer, a person who undertook his professional tasks with dexterity and precision – and then, inevitably, sought the next step, the next advance.
Through artistry, intelligence and genetic knowledge, David Plant became one of the most sought-after inseminators in the industry. His results could be way beyond expectations. Client loyalty and success went hand-in-hand.
On the job, David Plant was a finely-tuned, principled yet flexible, and able to give independent, client-specific, valued advice. He connected with cattlemen and their families.
David got on with people. He delighted in an engrossing conversation.
His planning and attention to detail were meticulous.
You could set you clock by David.
On artificial insemination mornings he’d drive – we’d call it “mooch” – past our bedroom down to the cattle yards at 7.45am. He’d be ready when I got there at 8am.
A ginger-hair-and-freckles sort of boy grown into a slim, fit man with pale skin and totally bald pate, angular nose, big ears, expressive face. Strong voice.
At 8am there’s a battered blue beanie to warm the dome, a grey boiler suit, short gum boots.
“We’ll just poke our way through them,” he’d say.
He meant the heifers to be AI’d that session. And we would.
There is a beaten track in the concrete. The track is exactly 13 years in the making. Twice a year, David walked the concrete between semen tanks and the rear gate of the head bail. The last time on the beaten track was the end of April this year.
The beaten track is now a walkway full of great sorrow.
He died, by his own intent, another male in the agricultural industry to be claimed by depression. Those close to David knew what he faced, gave care and support unconditionally, and still he managed to end his life.
David was an iconic Australian. He loved surfing, barbecues, his wife, his two children and the Carlton Football Club. He also loved his work and the people who he encountered, the diversity of cattle families who became friends with his diffident and charismatic character.
The AI program undertaken twice a year by SCG since 2005 has been the most formative influence on the genetic make-up and performance my cattle herd, with results way beyond expectations. I wonder how many herds across the Australian continent could make the same observation?
You don’t inseminate 30,000 cattle in a year, travelling to more than 70 properties the length of the country, without leaving a major legacy.
David’s contribution to cutting-edge, quality breeding in the Australian cattle industry is not easy to quantify. Suffice to say, it has been immense.
That we, Australian cattle breeders, can lose someone like David, at the top of his game, yet a victim of depression, is a fact that is hard to digest.
We need to find a way to express what is vulnerable in each of us. It’s important not to hide. It’s important to communicate what makes you fragile, to get it out and to share the burden.
David’s death tells us how difficult this is. It tells us we must redouble our efforts.