Creek reflects on livestock legacy

Malcolm Creek reflects on livestock legacy

Life & Style
NEXT STEP: Eileen and Malcolm Creek, Morphett Vale, have formed a long partnership working with livestock within SA, nationally and internationally.

NEXT STEP: Eileen and Malcolm Creek, Morphett Vale, have formed a long partnership working with livestock within SA, nationally and internationally.

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Speaking with newly-retired agent Malcolm Creek is like getting a history lesson about the livestock industry in SA.

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Speaking with newly-retired agent Malcolm Creek is like getting a history lesson about the livestock industry in SA.

In the more than 60 years since he walked out of school at 14 and into the office of Goldsbrough Mort & Company in Mount Gambier looking for a job, Malcolm has witnessed a number of changes in the sector - within SA, Australia and the world.

Growing up on a small farm, milking cows at Suttontown, kickstarted his interest in horses, cattle and other animals.

While his first attempt at finding a job at Goldsbrough Mort & Co was unsuccessful, just nine months later - after some time at Radio Rentals and garden and hardware store Fiddler and Webb - Malcolm found himself in the livestock agency game at 15, working under "good boss" Don Forbes.

"The good part about it, the boss had a farm at Strathdownie, Vic, and he used to take me down there, which made it more attractive than being a desk jockey," he said. "Mount Gambier, at that time for Goldsbrough Mort, was basically a training centre for young guys and there were always a few on."

This included a few stints at the other offices at Lucindale and Keith.

Back in Mount Gambier, he was involved in that agency's pig and calf market, as well as the monthly combined agents sheep and cattle sale.

It was about this time that Goldsbrough Mort & Co merged with Elder Smith & Co, and Malcolm was advised it might be a good time to "jump ship" as there would likely be a surplus of agents in the new company.

So, he started working at Farmers Union.

This also coincided with Malcolm courting a young Farmers Union employee, Eileen Ball, who went on to be his wife.

As a couple, Malcolm and Eileen formed quite a team, with Eileen a major part of his work success.

"It was never just me working, it was always both of us, and Eileen could talk on the phone to my clients as well as I could," he said.

At this time, many towns had different selling centres for each agency, and while Malcolm was with Farmers Union, they built a new pig and calf complex - Mount Gambier's largest - as well as a new complex for the now weekly sheep and cattle market.

Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort & Co had the biggest cattle selling complex in the region, and Malcolm said they wanted to see how they could compete.

"We (initially) leased the railway yards and started in opposition to Elders - they started at 9am, so we started earlier," he said.

Until the 1970s, Malcolm was acting as the Farmers Union sheep and lambs auctioneer at Mount Gambier and in the western districts of Vic, but there were two more moves on the agenda. Firstly, he managed the Southern Farmers branch at Penola, then shifted to Adelaide, where he was area supervisor for the South East and Western Districts of Vic, targeting the Newmarket complex in Vic, which was seen as the place to get "top dollar" for stock.

Malcolm Creek at the Portland feedlot in the 1980s.

Malcolm Creek at the Portland feedlot in the 1980s.

It was during this period that Malcolm began to make his contacts in the export markets, while supplying stock.

In November 1979, he sold a large consignment of pregnant Friesian heifers to Kuwait and went on the ship with the cattle.

Unfortunately the trip was a "fiasco", with a mix-up on his passport resulting in him being imprisoned in Bahrain for several weeks while the situation was sorted.

Malcolm finally made it home just in time for Christmas.

Despite this negative experience, Malcolm took up a job offer with live export company Kuwait Livestock Transport and Training - albeit solely from Australian shores.

He was in charge of sourcing 110,000 sheep as well as cattle for loads every six weeks, out of a feedlot in Portland, Vic, up until the start of the Gulf War in the 1990s.

A big part of this was to help build up the breeding programs in other countries, with sourcing breeding ewes and pregnant dairy heifers among his responsibilities.

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It was during this time he met Mount Compass agent Kym Endersby, ProStock. After a few more years working freelance in the export industry, he started working for ProStock himself - and then stayed for the next 25 years.

"When I started there were three of us - Kim, Heather Grundy and myself - in the office and a 20-year-old truck," he said. "Since then, the shed has been added onto about five times."

To get a feel for the Fleurieu Peninsula, Malcolm set out to meet as many people as he could.

He would start the day in his vehicle with a map, and just drive down a road, stopping at every farm house and knocking on the door.

"If you got someone at home, that was a bonanza, because it gave you the name of everyone on the road," he said.

"As a stock agent, I think we've enjoyed the Fleurieu Peninsula more than anywhere else - clients aren't just clients, they're good friends at the same time."

This feeling goes both ways, with a client at his recent retirement party, describing him as a "true gentleman", known for his "integrity, honesty and genuine nature".

Malcolm and Eileen's move into official retirement will bring more time for an early passion - horses.

They have owned several racehorses through the years - including some in a syndicate with former SE colleague Ron Thomas - with a few young ones coming up.

They have also created a legacy in the livestock industry, with children Bronwyn, Bruce and Jan and grandchildren also sharing their interest in livestock.

Malcolm said granddaughter Tegan used to follow him to work whenever she could, and she grew up to find her own job at ProStock as well.

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