"Retain your credibility" was the best advice Steve Ridley said he ever received; and throughout his lifelong career as a stock agent, those few words established him as one of the most recognised livestock agents in southern NSW.
Mr Ridley has recently retired after 47 years in the agency game, most of them with Elders, with whom he started as a trainee at Mudgee straight after he left Hurlstone Agricultural High School, Glenfield, in 1974.
A career in livestock agency was the best alternative for Steve as he didn't think the family farm between West Wyalong and Condobolin, with three brothers and two sisters was not an option.
Short stints at Elders offices in Bourke, Crookwell, Goulburn and Moree, followed before he was appointed at age 23 the company's youngest branch manager at Crookwell.
He transferred to Sydney, selling livestock at the busy Homebush sale yards, then to Elders Scone.
After leaving the company for a year, he returned to Goulburn with Challenge Mercantile, and still in the livestock sales business.
But by 1983, Mr Ridley was back at Elders Goulburn, where he became branch manager for some 12 years and for the last 10 years, as livestock manager.
It was during his time in Goulburn that he came under the mentorship of renowned stud livestock salesman Tony Dowe who was to have the greatest influence of Steve's career.
"He gave me the opportunity as a young bloke to deal with clients and he pointed me in the right direction," Mr Ridley said.
"He also used to say - "If you are going to do something, do it properly" - and that has stuck with me."
Another Elders employee at Goulburn who Mr Ridley credits with helping him get started was Ray Miller.
"He taught me how to draft and was always there if I needed some backup," he said.
Current Elders Goulburn branch manager Ted Goad said Steve was an "institution" in his own right who was widely respected for his knowledge.
"Steve has been at the forefront of the agency business," he said. "His knowledge and ability to remember who sold what and for how much in sales five to 10 years ago is unbelievable."
Mr Goad said Mr Ridley had been involved with three and four generations of pastoral families, selling their livestock and advising on stock breeding programs.
Some of these included the Kellys from Rugby, the Bells from Breadalbane and the Ramms at Braidwood.
Dougal Kelly regards Mr Ridley has having a massive influence on his family, not only at a business level but also as a wonderful mentor.
"His experience, his knowledge and friendship has been amazing for me and my family," he said.
Among many career highlights Mr Ridley cites selling rams for former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on his Victorian property, Nareen Station, Nareen, and conducting the Ridley family's Shorthorn dispersal sale at West Wyalong.
At the latter, a bull bred by Mr Ridley's niece Nagol Park Y2K Wallstreet W35 sold for a record $48,000.
He has seen plenty of changes in his time, and while he was disappointed that Goulburn missed out on a modern saleyard, he lauded the South Eastern Livestock Exchange at Yass and its state of the art facilities.
The biggest change has been the use of mobile phones which has made the life of all stock and station agents so much easier.
Mr Ridley welcomed the return of young farmers to the land who are using the technology advancements to transform farming into a business which embraces innovation.
"It's absolutely mind blowing how the sector is going," he said.
"We've gone from practically giving away sheep during the drought and selling cattle for $10 to $12. The prices now are unbelievable. There's a lot of high class planning happening on properties and young people are driving the industry forward. We are in exciting times.
"The industry has never been in better shape. It's good to be leaving on a high note; it's a bit like winning the grand final."
Doug Tozer, principal of the Onslow Angus stud, Cootamundra, held him in high regard.
"Steve always put his clients first, nothing was ever too much for him when it came to seeing the best results for them," he said.
"Steve had an amazing career, being at the forefront of many of the livestock selling innovations we take for granted today."
Mr Ridley was involved in the first trials of selling over-the-hooks at Homebush Abattoirs: participation in the first interfaced cattle auction through the Computer Aided Livestock Marketing (CALM) at Jeogla, Armidale, when 1778 Hereford Beefmaker steers were sold on March 16, 1988 and he was instrumental in the first videoed cattle sale held in Goulburn by Elders.
Other career highlights included handling the first Helmsman Auction at South Bukalong Poll Hereford stud, Bombala: the first trials of Cattle Futures while he was at Homebush and managing the largest circuit sheep sale in NSW at Gunning-Biala, where up to 25,000 head were yarded.
Steve was the first person to use a microphone at store cattle sales in southern NSW, despite a lot of negative comments and microphones are in common use today.
He was an Auctions Plus level 1 cattle and sheep assessor for well over 30 years and Employee of the Year for Elders nationally in 2015.
Mr Ridley credits his award to embracing new technology, thinking outside the square, and always aiming to add value to his client's operations.
"But I didn't do it on my own, it was a team effort," he said.
"You must recognise the team because I couldn't do it all by myself and their support was amazing."
Steve Ridley and wife, Ann intend to spend more time with their family, including five grandchildren, and on their other passion - playing golf.
He will keep his hand in slightly with contract selling for Elders and mentoring staff over the next year.
"As the Japanese say, you don't retire, you just change your priorities," he said.
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