Live Export – Another important chapter of the Primac story!

Primac’s long involvement in the export of livestock, had it’s origins way back in the late 1960’s, and continued with “gusto” over the next two decades. Mactaggarts PPCA led the charge, particularly in the 1970’s with large boatloads of breeding heifers and bulls despatched to our near neighbours in the Pacfic, and certainly further afield to many destinations in the South East Asian regions.

The department contributed greatly to the company’s bottom line, and gave the company brand excellent international recognition. Also it certainly proved a great training ground for many Primac Guru agents.

Slick Advertising Brochures told the Export Story!

Plenty of Primac Gurus did some time in the Export Department.

Department head for many years was none other than Trevor McGuire. In the early years, he was ably assisted by John Montague and Margaret Neill. Other gurus including Trevor Francis, Gary Mason, Greg Jacobsen, Neil Donaldson, Bruce Vidgen and many others were involved in the preparation, proccessing and loading of the cattle out of the Port of Brisbane. Usually it was all hands to the wheel, to complete the job in an orderly manner, and allow the vessels to depart on time.

“Bethany” Wandoan

During the peak years in the early 1970’s Mactaggarts secured a holding property at Wandoan, known as “Bethany” to be used for their export base. At “Bethany” stock were held, and prepared prior to shipment. Suitable cattle were selected from producer clients across the south west and central west areas of the state and held at “Bethany”, quarantined and vet checked then despatched to the Port of Brisbane via the Churchill Saleyards at Ipswich.

Extract of Facebook Post from the Primac Gurus page 24th August 2021 (author Gary Mason)

Gary Mason

Hello all, if you have read the Star of Taroom story, I would like to add a little.

When working for the Livestock Export department at Mactaggarts back in 1973 I think, I spent some time on Bethany, where we were involved in upgrading the station yards to better handle the export cattle coming through the system.

As you can see it involved a new crush, scales and loading ramp.

The ramp has the property name inscribed into it ( these photos took some finding ).

Errol and Alan Harris were the property managers at that stage, and Alan had the pleasure ( not ) of taking me to the Wandoan Hospital after putting an axe into the side of my foot while trimming lancewood rails. The matron reluctantly sewing me back together as there was no doctor in Wandoan at the time.

As a past student, I would also like to add that Jim Danalis graduated from Gatton College with a Queensland Diploma in Animal Husbandry in 1959 before graduating as a veterinarian in 1964.

Gary Mason

That was 48 years ago and I’m thinking they would have probably fallen down or been replaced by now. Age shall not weary them…they just fall in a heap!!!

Greg Jacobsen

Margaret NeillGary Mason whilst I wasn’t attached to the Export Dept, I always put my hand up when extra help was needed. I did a couple of trips with Monty, in the baron, out west to bleed heifers, and assisted loading the boats at Hamilton Wharf on several occasions. I remember the wharfies were not always cooperative, and we would have to work around their shift changes. Trevor Francis, is another that was with you guys in export. I remember being with Trevor one day after he picked up a new Jeep and horse float. We pulled up at a set of lights at Windsor on Gympie Road. Trevor slammed the vehicle into first gear, dropped the clutch when lights turned green, and the rig shot off backwards. Fortunately no damage, but unlike cars we were used with floor mounted gear stick, Jeep had reverse where first gear should have been. Not sure if Trevor would remember that but it was the first thing that came to mind when I read your post this arvo.

Greg Jacobsen

By the way Gary Mason love the old photos.

Gary Mason

Greg Jacobsen yes, the rag-top Jeep and horse-float came into the possession of Butch Yorkston and myself. We ” toured ” the countryside where export cattle were agisted – carting a couple of horses, swags, camping and cooking gear. Can recall Butch got unloaded at Duckponds near Emerald. It was a Sunday afternoon, took him to Emerald Hospital and they wouldn’t look at him. So packed him into his swag with a carton of stubbies ( pain killers )and drove to Gracemere, unloaded the horses, got little sleep and got Butch into Rocky Base where they patched him up Monday morning. Ah life’s great adventures!

Margaret Neill

Gary Mason and Greg Jacobsen – I had forgotten about Butch and Trevor. Do you guys remember Ian Gadsby and Bob Tarry who used to work at Bethany with Errol and Edwin? And the day down at the Wharf when Doug and Don McMillan got up the Wharfies for going slow and they stopped all together. Monty and I went to some hotel in the Valley and bought bottles of Scotch and cartons of Beer to try and get the show on the road again!!

Gary Mason

Margaret Neill the name Bob Tarry rings a bell but can’t place him. Don’t know about the scotch and beer, but call recall when we finished loading a boat once, the little Indonesian seamen pulled these horrible tasting beers out, which they had hidden … 

Greg Jacobsen

Gary Mason good story. That’s memories

Greg Jacobsen

Margaret Neill can’t say I remember the names, but I reckon I was there on the wharf that day Marg. I recall we had one last double deck to load to finish, the wharfies shift change, meant the forklift under the loading ramp was removed and driven back to shed. There was a lot of agro and a long time before we had cooperation to finish the job. There was a threat of strike. Maybe the scotch and beer were the trick. Happy days!

Greg Jacobsen

Gary Mason your right the beer was ordinary, but the galley food was incredible

The chosen few who escorted cattle on their overseas trip.

It was usual practice to have several up and coming agents accompany the shipments across the waters. Many an agent felt extremely proud to be chosen to represent their company, and enjoy a lifetime experience on the voyages, and later aeroplane flights to new countries.

Mike Blume, Terry Lanskey, Ken Bigg, and David (Fred Morgan) were just some of those agents that regarded their trips a memorable time in their lives. Here are some exerts of their experiences

David (Fred) Morgan off to Indonesia for Christmas!

“The export trade was on in earnest and late December 1981 I was asked if I
would take a boat load of cattle across to Indonesia.  Well, I was a
natural – single and unattached so that were the qualifications that got me the
gig.  I met up with Margie Neill and the export team in
Rocky and loaded the cattle onto road transport for delivery to port in
Gladstone.  We were to fly down to Gladstone.  We loaded into the
Beach Barron and took off from Rocky.  At 50 feet up, the cabin filled with
smoke. I was in the front with the pilot and Margie and three Indonesian vets
were in the back.  Only two of the three green lights were on for the down
and locked landing gear.  The pilot did four passes over the control tower
and all agreed it “should” be OK to land.  We circled about for a few
minutes and then landed and the pilot gave me instructions to get everyone out
as soon as we came to a stop.  Well, the plane landed, I flung my door
open, stepped onto the wing nearly tore the passenger door from its hinges and
reached in front of the vets and dragged Margie out first. I was on a mission
to ensure no Primac person got left behind.

We made Gladstone and the boat the M.V. Braham Express with 900 brahman
heifers and 100 bulls sailed next morning from Gladstone.  Up through the
Whitsundays it was like a pane of glass and so smooth that I was getting
queasy.  The captain was worried as to how I would handle the Torres
Strait which would be rougher.  Once we turned the corner and hit the
rough stuff, I as on top of the world and had a fantastic voyage. 
Christmas day was spent on board, three days out from Palu, Sulawesi.  We
unloaded in record time and seeing the cattle through quarantine started. 
All went well until day 10 when the cattle broke out into blisters – something
like mosquito bites that got infected and bubbled up.  Another seven days
in quarantine.  Was an absolutely marvelous experience though.

The M.V. Brahman Express was a Dutch registered vessel and
was originally a Roll On – Roll Off ferry for vehicles and plied the European
waters. It was converted to carry cattle (very few modifications) and was the
vessel I was to escort a load of cattle from Gladstone to Sulawesi, Indonesia.

We loaded one night in late December ( I suspect it was the 20th of
December) with 900 brahman heifers and 100 brahman bulls, and departed early
next morning. The waters were as smooth as glass and we made good progress. The
cattle travelled very well and there was plenty of room for individuals to lay
down. The fodder was of great quality, and very plentiful.

We celebrated Christmas in Indonesian waters. The cook prepared a huge
turkey with all the trimmings and was shared by the entire crew

We tied up at Palu on the southwestern tip of Sulawesi on the 28th December.

The unloading began. I must admit I was in shock as the truck drivers were
busy building “crates”, for their trucks to carry the cattle. All
construction was of bamboo! There was no organisation of vehicle movement or
orderly loading. I grabbed an offcut of bamboo and started to tap trucks to get
the drivers to move them, and got them into an orderly fashion, so unloading
could begin. Once unloading began and I cleared the chaos, the trucks fell into
an orderly rhythm and the Captain was very impressed as the boat was unloaded
nine hours quicker than planned.

Once unloaded, cattle were taken to a quarantine facility where they were
monitored and processed through Indonesian standards. When quarantine was
finalised, the stock were distributed to the various local farmers at various
villages. Each animal then had a nose piercing and rope applied.

It was a wonderous experience”

Terry Lanskey and Ken Bigg airfreight a consignment of heifers to South Korea

During his early days in Meandarra, Terry became a regular supplier of cattle for the live export market. As a reward for his efforts, John Montague (Head Office Live Export) offered Terry a trip to South Korea in 1978. This was a trip with a difference – flying out of Sydney with 198 Poll Hereford and Angus heifers to South Korea, with a fuel stop in Guam. A lot of land lubbers from the bush had very ordinary sea legs and were troubled by sea sickness, so Terry jumped at the opportunity to fly. A couple of added bonuses were that he could take a client and also they would be away for two weeks.

Terry invited Ken Bigg, the first manager of Primaries Meandarra, to accompany him. The deal was that Korean farmers were to be given three heifers as part of a breeding program. After the work was finished the duo took some time off in Japan and broke the journey home with a visit to Hong Kong. Understandably he ran out of funds, so contacted Head Office for an advance. Terry says this was promptly attended to, at no cost to him. ($800.00 which would have been a reasonable amount in the late 1970’s)


Mactaggarts played an integral role in the establishment of a cattle industry in PNG!

Resulting from the establishment of an export trade of live cattle to Papua New Guinea, Mactaggarts took a financial interest in a local Lae company, New Guinea Pastoral Supplies (NGPS) in the early 1970’s. Initially thousands of breeding females were exported by Mactaggarts to fledgling projects across the New Guinea mainland, and the islands, and in subsequent years NGPS in their own right began exporting cattle from the Markham Valley, to island destinations in PNG and even into Irian Jaya.

Many Mactaggarts and Primac agents spent time subsconded to NGPS including Doug Haigh, Peter Deaville, Bruce Vidgen, Dennis Cotter, Greg Jacobsen, Col Jacques, Graham Webb, and Neil Donaldson. All were involved in the exporting process throughout the country.

Large contract to supply Sahiwal dairy x heifers to Malaysia!

November 1977 saw Trevor McGuire announce that Primac had won a contract to supply the Malaysian Government some 3500 Sahiwal dairy x heifers. The plan was to fly them in small shipments with the supply period to be fulfilled by the end of 1979. The following newspaper article, dated the 10th November 1977 details the shipment procedures.


11th December 1979 overseeing the loading of 260 Sahiwal heifers to Kuala Lumpur on a Cargoiux DC8 jet

Pictured are bottom left clockwise: Doug Mactaggart, Glen Mactaggart, Bruce Vidgen, Trevor McGuire, Brian Peake, Dick Blanchard, Margaret Neill, Ted Amies (accompanied the heifers), Muriel Amies, Robert Mactaggart (also on the trip) Photo courtesy from the files of Bruce Vidgen.

Some times things don’t go according to plan!

Despite the very best planning, when dealing with livestock, occasionally things do go wrong. Primac had a proven track record when exporting cattle, and were regarded as the market leaders, but on the 25th March 1980, Bruce Vidgen and Duncan Campbell, the Primac representatives on a flight to Malaysia, were confronted with a rapidly evolving situation.

Bruce Vidgen was asked to prepare a report for management detailing the harrowing incident. Fortunately such severe incidents were rare, but, as, mentioned, when handling livestock the best prepared plans can quickly unravel. Below is a copy of Bruce’s report.



Primac’s 1980 Year Book provides some interesting live export statistics

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