Livestock legend retires after 40 years

Livestock SA's long-term leader retires but leaves lasting legacy

Life & Style
LEGACY LEFT: Former Livestock SA executive officer Deane Crabb retired late last month at 71 years old.

LEGACY LEFT: Former Livestock SA executive officer Deane Crabb retired late last month at 71 years old.


LIVESTOCK SA's Deane Crabb retired at the end of last month after 40 years in the industry. Mr Crabb helped to lead the industry body since 2013.


WHEN most people reach retirement age, it is not long before dreams of fishing and cruising the world start creeping in and become a reality.

But for a livestock industry influencer, Livestock SA's Deane Crabb decided to help safeguard producers' needs for the future instead.

Mr Crabb officially retired in late April after 40 years of working in the livestock industry.

After the SA Farmers' Federation disbanded in 2013, there was not an overarching body for the state's livestock producers, so Deane spearheaded a new industry organisation, Livestock SA.

It wasn't easy though, he said, with the organisation not even having a telephone, email address or bank account when it first began.

"We had to work pretty hard to make it happen. It was just myself and another person left from SAFF," he said.

"But all of the other commodity groups had organisations in SA, so the livestock industry needed to form its own too."

Working with Primary Producers SA, Deane got the ball rolling and sought out a bit of extra support.

"We literally had to start from scratch. We needed an office, which was not easy to find," he said.

But Deane found an ally in former SA Dairyfarmers' Association president and now SA Primary Industries Minister David Basham.

"At my farewell, he reminded me of his pivotal role in getting Livestock SA up and running," Deane said.

"David basically cut the SADA boardroom in half to make an office for me. So he can boast about that involvement with helping it get off the ground."

Deane said the body had to "hit the ground running".

"We just had to hope that all the tedious issues would eventually get up and running too," he said.

"There was also a lot of red tape getting incorporated and sorting through the official side of things, but obviously we got there."

Deane was appointed as Livestock SA executive officer in 2013, after six years as policy manager for SAFF.

Deane originally started as an agricultural economist cadet with the former SA Department of Agriculture.

He spent nearly 40 years in the SA government in a number of roles including as an agricultural economist, rural counselling liaison officer, executive officer for the Advisory Board of Agriculture and Agricultural Bureau of SA and as a ministerial liaison officer.

At 71, Deane has effectively spent the first part of his retirement building Livestock SA and four years ago, he decided to step back from the executive officer position and take on a policy officer role within the organisation to begin a path to official retirement.

But in his time as executive officer, there were some memorable moments.

Deane said a pivotal moment for the organisation to prove its support for producers and their needs, was when the state Labor government attempted to introduce a biosecurity levy on livestock.

"It was a bit of a 'The West Wing' moment - a few organisations has campaigned against it and Labor did not have the numbers to support it," he said.

"Livestock SA campaigned pretty hard to get Liberal and Lower House support and we thought we had won the fight.

"But it was snuck through into that year's state budget."

But Deane said thanks to industry stalwart and Livestock SA board member Jean Evans, producers did indeed end up winning the fight.

"She was related to the Liberal party shadow treasurer and at a church fete, Jean basically wore him down and convinced him to oppose the levy," he said.

"Livestock SA had a meeting scheduled with the Liberal party to convince them to vote against it and we had a strong argument all ready to go - but it was not needed."

Deane said to their surprise, Jean's tactics had worked and the Liberal party agreed with limited discussion.

As the son of a solider settler and from a pioneering family at Rudall on the Eyre Peninsula, Deane grew up on a sheep farm at Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island.

This family background and connection to the land provided Deane with the right skills to thrive as an advocate for SA's livestock industry.

Deane said it provided him with the communication skills and ability to understand the needs of farmers.

"The livestock industry need an organisation that ensures that changes introduced by the government are inline with producers needs and wants," he said.

"A pressing issue at the moment is the Pastoral Act. We are trying to make sure that is workable."

Continued pressure from organisations that do not agree with livestock farming has also been a challenge for Deane.

"It has been an issue for a very long time and it is something we will work tirelessly to improve," he said.

Another key standout moment for Deane and the organisation was when former Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell announced the water infrastructure scheme for drought-stricken farmers.

"It was unique that the government allowed Livestock SA to take that on, as a non-government organisation," he said.

"It has been very beneficial."

After such a long career, Deane's future is a family-based retirement, with plans to travel to his wife's home country of Scotland and also to Sydney to see their son.

Deane believed the future of Livestock SA was bright and in safe hands with chief executive officer Andrew Curtis and president Joe Keynes at the helm.

RELATED: Andrew Curtis keen to advocate for SA producers

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