A man described as an "institution" in regional livestock selling and advisory has hung up his hat after 47 years in the industry.
Elders Goulburn livestock manager Steve Ridley was farewelled by up to 150 people at a retirement dinner at the Soldiers Club on Saturday. He and wife, Ann, are moving to Wollongong to be closer to family.
"I was blown away by the night," Mr Ridley said.
"It was so special to have so many staff, clients and people I've worked with over the years there."
A life on the small family farm between West Wyalong and Condobolin wasn't going to be sustainable for Mr Ridley so he said he chose the next best thing.
Following his education at Hurlstone Agricultural College, he started with Elders Mudgee, before short stints at Bourke, Crookwell, Goulburn and Moree. By age 23 he was the company's youngest branch manager - this time at Crookwell.
He transferred to Sydney, selling livestock at the busy Homebush saleyards, then to Elders Scone. After leaving the company for a year, he returned to Goulburn with Challenger Mercantile, also selling livestock.
But by 1983, Mr Ridley was back at Elders Goulburn. He was branch manager for some 12 years and for the last 10 years, livestock manager. In 2015 he was named the company's national employee of the year.
Current branch manager Ted Goad said Mr Ridley 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 the families, selling their livestock and advising on stock breeding programs.
Some of these included the Kellys from Rugby and the Bells from Breadalbane.
Mr Ridley said he'd made numerous friendships over the years. He named just some of the highlights as selling bulls for former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on his Victorian property, Nareen Station and conducting his family's shorthorn dispersal sale at West Wyalong. At the latter, a bull bred by his niece sold for a record $48,000.
"We (Elders Goulburn) also ran the Biala/Gunning circuit sale which sold 25,000 sheep across 18 properties. It was something unique," Mr Ridley said.
Former local branch manager, Tony Dowe, whom he described as one of the main stud stock auctioneers and managers in his day, was a particular mentor. Mr Dowe spoke at Saturday's function, along with graziers Guy Milson and Dougal Kelly.
Mr Ridley has seen plenty of changes in his time. While saying it was sad that Goulburn missed out on a modern saleyard, he lauded the South Eastern Livestock Exchange at Yass and its state of the art facilities.
He also welcomed the entry of more young farmers and technology advancements that were radically transforming farming.
"It's absolutely mind blowing how the sector is going," Mr Ridley 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. They're 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."
Mr 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," Mr Ridley said.
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