Change of pace for cattleman
ONE of the men who lends his surname to a renowned livestock and real estate agency is winding down.
Michael Stevens has retired from his directorship of Stevens Egan Johnston (SEJ) but remains committed to serving his clients as a casual employee of the company he helped found.
After 51 years as on agent and 27 years in the top job at SEJ, Mr Stevens feels his family now deserves more of his time.
The father of three and grandfather of five is also planning travel, golf and fishing.
Clients will continue to see Mr Stevens on-farm and also at VLE Leongatha sales on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and occasionally at auctions.
He is pleased to be scaling back at a high point in the livestock caper.
“The beef industry is now the best it’s ever been because there is a shortage of cattle at the moment, and the sheep and lamb industry has never been better because there’s a shortage of supply.”
Over his career, Mr Stevens has seen the introduction of live weight selling, online auctions and the post sale weighing of cattle.
But the future of agriculture worries him. Farmers are typically making little money and young people are not entering the industry, dissuaded by poor returns and high land prices.
“Milk companies may end up having to run properties. Things are going to have
And with Melbourne’s population growing and South Gippsland’s proximity to the metro region, more land is going to be needed for rural living here.
“I do not believe in cutting up all the good farming land but there are areas that are not suitable for farming and would be suitable for sustainable development.”
The life of an agent is demanding. Early days at the former Korumburra saleyards required agents to work from 10pm before market days sorting cattle, finishing at 2pm the following day after sale before heading to clients’ properties to draft lambs.
Agents would be back at the saleyards at 5.30 the next morning for the lamb sale and after lunch, they’d draft some stock before returning to the yards at 10pm to repeat the cycle ahead of Friday’s market.
“After doing all that, some agents would go to Sale or Bairnsdale and then they may have had a clearing sale on the Saturday.”
A headmaster at Camberwell High School described Mr Stevens as “a nuisance” and a “terrible waste of time”, and suggested he find a job.
He worked with the former agency Gippsland and Northern (G&N) at the Newmarket and Dandenong saleyards as an office boy for 10 years, before advancing to auctioneer in 1961.
Seeking a change, Mr Stevens sold veterinary chemicals with Bayer based at Hamilton but the job was not as he expected. After 18 months, he resigned and drove a pet food delivery truck around Gippsland and tended to a gardening round in Melbourne.
Mr Stevens returned to livestock in 1972 as an auctioneer with Brian Carroll Pty Ltd at Dandenong and after four years, joined Dennys Lascelles, based at Fish Creek, having just married his wife Robin and bought a house at Bunyip in West Gippsland.
The couple has lived in the area ever since.
The company later became DSM Estates. Mr Stevens managed the local office, with Bill Egan second-in-charge, when the company fell under the Elders’ empire.
“Some of our customers were not happy with that and asked if Bill and I would set up our own company,” Mr Stevens said.
SEJ was founded in 1983 by Mr Stevens, Mr Egan, their mate Bill Sweeney, and then Dalgetys Leongatha manager, Terry Johnston.
The four encountered difficulty securing funding from banks and spent long hours in the evenings contacting clients, but the company has now grown to include branches at Leongatha, Foster, Sandy Point, Warragul and VLE Pakenham, with 27 staff.
Among the longstanding employees have been Andrea Funnell, Anne Holland, Anne-Marie Calder and Michelle Matthews.
A percentage of the business was sold to Tasmanian-based Ruralco, offering more buying power.
The Stevenses have a son Sam, married to Megan with children Ella, Amelia and Oliver; daughter Meg, married to Craig with sons Fred and George; and a daughter Sarah.
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=1044