Primac and the Santa Gertrudis breed in Australia – Enjoyed a long history!

The president of Primac Gurus Assoc Inc, Mr. Richard Handley has compiled this comprehensive history of the important connection between Primac and the Santa Gertrudis breed in Australia. It commenced with the first on-property King Ranch sale at “Risdon” Warwick in 1952. Primaries stud stock officer, Scotchie Cullen played an integral role in this and subsequent sales. Many Mactaggarts, and Primaries directors at that time became long supporters of the sales and the breed. The story continued with Jim Heading, of Mactaggarts, in 1961, selling the first purebred Santa female, at the Joyce and Joyce sale. Also, another true guru, Garth Hughes was the auctioneer of choice for many within the industry. Even today the connection continues with Primac Guru, Mr. Chris Todd, currently holding the position of General Manager of Santa Gertrudis Australia.

Article kindly contributed by Richard Handley

Santa Gertrudis The Early Days

This early history of the Santa Gertrudis breed in Australia and King Ranch Australia has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Santa Gertrudis Society in both Australia and America. Most of this information is from Jack Hanley’s, Santa Gertrudis – “Big Cattle… Big Country” book (Published in 1995, no longer in print). For this, we are truly gratified.

From this history, we can certainly have a better understanding of the key role that Primac Gurus forebears played – both staff and company Directors.

The Swedish freighter M.S. Kanangoora carrying a cargo of 45 bulls arrived in Brisbane on 15th June 1952. After a month in quarantine at Lytton the bulls were then transferred by rail to “Risdon” at Warwick. A further 201 heifers and 27 bulls were shipped to Melbourne and arrived on 27th August on the S.S. Sierra. They were held for six weeks at Goode Island Quarantine Station before being trucked to Sir Rupert Clarke’s property north of Melbourne. In mid-November they were railed to “Risdon” at Warwick.

After setting up King Ranch (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sir Rupert Clark and Sam Hordern inspected several properties to set up stud headquarters. They finally agreed on “Risdon” in April 1952 – a property of 3040 ha near Warwick. Later King Ranch acquired “New Twin Hills”, for a commercial herd and then “Elgin Downs” for the stud herd – between them, the properties covered 663 sq km. When the lease on “Avon Downs” (953 sq km) became available it was acquired in 1952. Later “Disney” was added to form Associated Stations Pty Ltd.

Martin “Scotchie” Cullen

When King Ranch decided to purchase “Risdon” the selling agent was Martin (Scotchie) Cullen. He became closely associated with King Ranch and played a significant part in the establishment of the Santa Gertrudis breed in Australia. ‘Scotchie” had joined stock and station agent Primaries after World War11 and oversaw their stud stock department in Brisbane at the time of the importation. The stock selling agencies at the time, being strongly British breed orientated, were not particularly keen on being involved with a ‘foreign” breed, particularly of the Bos Indicus type. However, Primaries at the instigation of mainly “Scotchie”, “gave it a go”, conducting the sales and arranging publicity.

As well as being the complete agent, “Scotchie” was also an experienced cattleman. He had jackerooed on properties owned by the Schmidt families and on “Alroy Downs in the Northern Territory. He was also friendly with the Douglas family and served with Jock Douglas in the 2/10 Field Regiment AIF. They were both taken prisoners of war. “Scotchie” recommended Jock’s brother Howard as manager of Risdon Stud. He was formally appointed and took up the position on 15th May 1952.

On 6th August 1952, it was decided to hold the first sale of King Ranch Imported bulls on the 14th of November. The 45 bulls were then drafted with the tops to be retained for Risdon Stud with 12 selected for the sale. The organisation of the sale became “Scotchie’s” responsibility. At the early sales if you purchased a bull at the auction, you were then given the option to purchase another in the paddock. At later sales, a purchase of a bull gave you an option to a service by one of their quarter horse stallions to a brood mare -certainly great promoters.

King Ranch Sale 1

The auctioneer for the day was Clarrie Phillips, whose more familiar venue was the fat cattle sales of Cannon Hill, Brisbane for Primaries. However, he sold the bulls. The sale catalogue did not contain the details that became standard in later years. It listed “Twelve Santa Gertrudis Stud Bulls” (recently imported from King Ranch, America). Age – approximately 18 months”. No breeding details or names were included, and the bulls were identified by a tag in each ear.

The first bull offered tagged 4709/2118, after keen bidding, was knocked down to Len Munchow, Cecil Plains, for 1000 guineas ($2100). Other buyers included Paddy O’Brien of Pee Dee Pastoral Company; Australian Estates, “Millungerra”, Julia Creek; L. Fisher, Daintree River; D.T. Kelly, Akaroa; T.A. Pownall, Monto; Leo Bishop, Goomeri; Ken Atkinson, Mount Garnet; Monty Atkinson.

The highlight of the sale was lot 8 purchased by F.G. and Z. Schmidt, “Avondale”, Cunnamulla. Felix Schmidt had sat very quietly during the sale, but when the bull he had selected entered the ring, “one bid, one bust” of 1500 guineas, ($3150), and the bull was knocked down to him.

The 12 bulls averaged 1108 guineas ($2011).

King Ranch Sale 2

In 1953 another shipment of 29 bulls arrived from King Ranch Texas. It was decided to offer 16 imported bulls at their second sale on 13th November 1953. The bulls were still identified by ear tags and some approximate ages were given in the catalogue. For the purpose of the sale, the bulls were also named.

Joyce & Joyce were the volume buyers with three bulls at an average of 1300 guineas. Top price of 2300 guineas ($4830) were paid by repeat buyer, Ken Atkinson, “Wairuna”, Mount Garnett. Other buyers included Hugh Inness, “Walla”, Gin Gin; George Greenup, “Rosevale”, Jandowae and Doctors Reg and Susie Buckingham.

The sixteen imported bulls averaged 1118 guineas ($2349)

Jack Wyland

Jack Wyland replaced Clarrie Phillips as auctioneer at sale number two. The sale dubbed the “Santa Gertrudis Expansion Sale.”

Jack Wyland was an experienced, top-stud stock auctioneer from Primaries Rockhampton. He was to become an asset to the breed and to sell at the first commercial Santa Gertrudis sale at Gracemere Saleyards, Rockhampton in 1960. The sale did much to introduce the breed to coastal Queensland and to prove the cattle had a place there as well as the inland.

Jack recalled the early days when he was based in Longreach. He had learnt shorthand and typing to get a job at Longreach – wages $24 -$30 a month. His ambition was to become an auctioneer but there was no selling job available at Longreach, so he moved to Rockhampton to go to work for Primaries.

King Ranch Sale 3

There were no importations from America in 1954 but 12 imported bulls were offered. The bulls had undergone a 60-day feed test trial and the results were available for the guidance of prospective buyers. This was to be last sale of imported bulls. As well as repeat buyers, G. A. Greenup, Joyce & Joyce and K. J. Atkinson the sale introduced Santa Gertrudis to two cattlemen who were to become very prominent in the breed – David Bassingthwaighte,Yarrawonga”, Wallumbilla and “Dolf” Schmidt, Peel River Land and Mineral Co, “Goonoo Goonoo”, Tamworth.

The twelve bulls sold averaged 1183 guineas ($2484).

King Ranch Sale 4

Sale 4 on 11th November 1955, consisted of twelve bulls all bred in Australia – aged 18 to 24 months, all by imported sires out of imported dams. All bulls were named and carried the prefix Risdon.

Repeat buyer Felix SchmidtAvondale” Cunnamulla took home 2 bulls and G. A. Greenup, “Rosevale”, Jandowae 1. Three Walker brothers from central Queensland each purchased a bull.

The twelve bulls averaged 930 guineas ($1953) a slightly lower average than the three previous sales, where all bulls were imported.

King Ranch Sale 5

Sale 5 was conducted on 16th November with twelve yearling bulls, all Risdon bred being offered. A feature of the sale was the number of repeat buyers operating. New buyers included Richard Apel, “Mimosa”, Gayndah and Henderson & Reid, Marlborough.

The top price was $5040 with the twelve bulls averaging $3619.

King Ranch Sale 6

The 1957 sale consisted of twelve bulls plus the innovation of 4 pens of 3 second- cross heifers.

Again, the sale featured several repeat buyers plus newcomers Robin Hart, “Kerwee”, Eidsvold; A and D Alexander, “Anabranch”, Toogoolawah; Burleigh Estates, “Belldeen”, Biloela; D.R. & M.R. Munro, “Winton”, Goondiwindi; Charlie. Keene, “Wathopa”, Cunnamulla. All these founded studs and all were from Queensland.

The top bull realized $6300 and sold to O.E & W Keen, “Ingie”, Dirranbandi.

The twelve bulls averaged $3802 and the twelve heifers $1121.

King ranch Sale 7

This sale exceeded all expectations. Helping the sale were buyers at the earlier sales having obtained outstanding results with their own sales of first and second-cross bulls – Joyce & Joyce sold 40 first cross broken baldy bulls at the Eidsvold saleyards in January 1958, to $737 to average $460. Success at fat cattle shows also did a lot to promote the breed. G.A. Greenup won a single steer class at the Brisbane exhibition with a 23-month-old SG /shorthorn cross steer that dressed out at 301 kg.

Top and record price at the sale was Risdon Deacon at $7350. He was purchased by Mundoora Pastoral Co., Jerilderie who did not register a stud.

The twelve bulls averaged $5189.

Also, in 1958 several of the new Santa Gertrudis Studs conducted on property sales of first- cross bulls. These studs included G.A. Greenup, “Rosevale”, Jandowae and the Walker Families, “Cumberland”, Longreach.

Interestingly the auctioneer at the first 15 “Rosevale” sales was Geoff Bassingthwaighte. Geoff was the first manager of Primaries Wallumbilla in 1948 and then Primaries in Jandowae in 1949, after the acquisition of Farmer & Clarke. He later established his own agency business in Jandowae. Geoff was a brother to Arthur and Dave.

King Ranch sale 8

Australian Estates took over the running of the Sale from Primaries with Bill Kenny as auctioneer. The top price was $15,120 paid by Howard & Co, Collinton. Repeat buyers included Felix Schmidt, “Goonoo Goonoo” and “Millungerra”.

The twelve bulls averaged a record $11,760.

King Ranch sale 9

It is said the sale exceed expectations because of the dry season and the effect that restrictions on finance were having on the cattle industry.

Top price of $11,130 was paid by Noel Howard, “Belldean”, Biloela – son of Jack Howard who paid the record price the previous year.

The twelve bulls averaged $9677 and 10 heifers averaged $1967.

King Ranch sale 10.

This was to be the final Risdon sale with most of the offering going to repeat buyers. The Howard family continued their tradition with Noel Howard paying the top price of $13,230.

The twelve bulls averaged $6650 and 4 second cross heifers averaged $934.

In 1963 the King Ranch sale was moved to Milton Park, Bowral NSW until Sale 22 in 1976.

From Sale 11 in 1963 until Sale 22 all were conducted at “Milton Park“.

At sale 11 the auctioneering was shared between Alf McGeogh of AML&F and the introduction of Dave Watkins. Australian Estates, Rockhampton.

King Ranch Sale 23

In 1978 King Ranch Stud’s Australian headquarters moved back to Queensland and were established atMacquarie Downs, Leyburn – not all that far from “Risdon”. A change of policy saw 15 bulls offered instead of the usual 12.

King Ranch Sale 34 (Last Production)

This sale differed from its predecessors with 72 head being offered – 21 led and 21 unled “Macquarie Downs” bred bulls, 20 unled “Georgina Downs” appendix registered bulls, and 10 classified “Macquarie Downs” bred females.

The 62 bulls averaged $6165 and the classified females $5982 – Gross $447,500. The top seller made $33,000 and went to Marston Past. Co., Blackall.

King Ranch Dispersal Sale

Following the sale of King Ranch Australia, a dispersal of all “Macquarie Downs” bred stud cattle was held over 3 days in May 1990. 809 lots grossed over $3.6 million and sold to 197 buyers from every State and Territory in the country.

Garth Hughes

At the early “Macquarie Downs” sales, Garth sold the quarter horses while Dave Watkins sold the bulls. Later Garth sold both bulls and horses at “Macquarie Downs” sales and was part of the selling team at the King Ranch dispersal sale. He was a highly regarded auctioneer and is well remembered for selling the entire “Rosevale” catalogue every year. Garth sold the entire bull catalogue at “Rosevale” for 35 consecutive years.

Primaries, Mactaggarts and Primac Directors

Influential cattlemen involved in the early days of the Santa Gertrudis breed who were also directors of the above companies.

Felix Schmidt, Hugh Inness, Barney Joyce, Gordon Reid, Trevor Schmidt, Robin Hart.

Robin Hart

Robin was President of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders (Australia) Association for the period 1984-85. Robyn was appointed to the Primac Holdings Ltd board in February 1990 and was appointed chairman of the board in August 1991. He was the last Chairman of the Primac Holdings LTD board holding the position up until the company was taken over in 1995. He is currently the Patron of Primac Gurus Association Inc.

Chris Todd

Chris is currently General Manager of Santa Gertrudis Australia. Prior to that appointment Chris had been Manager of Primac Rockhampton and followed this up by being the manager of the Property Department in Primac’s Head Office. Chris was the emcee at the Primac Gurus inaugural reunion in Toowoomba in 2021.

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