My life in livestock exports – Angus Adnam


Winner of the 2022 Ian McIvor Lifetime Achiever Award, Angus Adnam, reflects on his time in the livestock export industry and on the LiveCorp board.

The live export industry has been one of my core passions in life and one that has provided a lifetime of memories and friendships.

The trade offered me a unique opportunity to travel the world and meet thousands of wonderful and interesting people from a vast variety of destinations and cultures, providing endless memories of working with farmers, pastoralists, truckies, livestock agents and government officials through to foreign ministers, Sultans and Presidents.

My career started in a rather humble fashion in 1969 as on on-board stockperson, assisting Dr Richard Trivett muster, draft and prepare a load of 400 Droughtmaster heifers and some bulls to go on the MV Ida Clausen. It loaded out of Port Alma in Queensland and discharged into the sea at an island off northern Sabah. The farm was owned by the then Chief Minister of Sabah, Datu Haji Mustapha bin Datu Harun.

This very small vessel was crewed by five interesting and worldly Australian sailors, whose favourite off duty pastime was to each drink at least a carton of beer a day. Conditions for the livestock could best be described as adequate and the accommodation for the crew left a lot to be desired with no air conditioning and two men sharing very small cabins. How times have changed for the better over the last 53 years, thankfully, in all respects.

I was tremendously fortunate to work in my early career as part of the AUSTREX team that pioneered livestock exporting to many destinations around the world. They were exciting times in that era – opening markets and facilitating shipments that had many adventures and challenges that also created great prosperity for our clients.

There were a number of memorable shipments out of New Zealand, including one that nearly ended my marriage to the most incredible lady in my life before it started, when I was loading a ship just prior to returning to Australia for my wedding.

Standing on the wharf and watching the ship set sail after many hours of loading livestock, fodder and supplies, I realised that my darling future wife’s wedding ring was in my brief case still on board the ship! Fortunately, the pilot boat came to the rescue and the rest is history, as I married Margaret (Margi) upon return to Australia with her being none the wiser.

Another memorable contract was for the delivery of 900,000 sheep to Algeria from Australia and New Zealand. All negotiations were carried out in French and, thanks to an excellent local Austrade staff member, the contracts and delivery went without a hitch.

Payment was by way of Letters of Credit issued by Algerian Banks and payable 360 days after the date of shipment. The appetite of Australian banks for these letters of credit was limited and we quickly became acquainted with the world of international banking. All letters of credit were honoured in full and on time, and it was a pleasure to work with these parties to open new and important markets for Australian livestock.

The AUSTREX business expanded rapidly during the 1970s and 80s, delivering a wide variety of animal types and species from Australia and New Zealand to various countries including South America, the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. To service these expanding markets, Margi and I moved to Singapore where I travelled constantly to far flung destinations all over the world. The Singapore office within the AUSTREX business, and the livestock export industry as a whole, was renowned in industry circles for being extraordinarily frugal and the staff particularly diligent in ensuring customer satisfaction!

On returning to Australia, our family moved to Brisbane where I became far more involved in industry matters at the Northern Territory and Queensland Livestock Exporters’ Associations (NTLEA and QLEA), Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) and LiveCorp board levels.

While residing in Darwin in the mid-70s I helped to establish the NTLEA and was its first President. Less than ten years after this, ALEC was formed and LiveCorp replaced the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation as the recipient of our export levies, and the rest is history as LiveCorp became the strong organisation that it is today.

In 2000 I founded my own live export business, AAA Livestock Services Pty Ltd, specialising in niche breeder shipments for smaller clients by sea and, over the years, more predominantly by air. I thoroughly enjoyed my role in this tremendous industry with AAA Livestock continuing to service our clients’ needs for cattle, sheep and goats through to 2019.

In 2013, I was privileged to join the LiveCorp board as a way of sharing 45 years of knowledge and experience, and to positively contribute to creating a sustainable future for an industry that had come under incredible, inappropriate pressure from market closures over the preceding five years.

The greatest achievement during my time serving on the LiveCorp Board was working collaboratively to keep the entire trade open despite a number of serious setbacks, some stimulated by misfortune created by those within the industry and some by poor government decisions.

It is my strong belief that LiveCorp continues to play a critical role in successfully working with, and negotiating with, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) to improve the efficiency of regulation.

The biggest future challenge remains for LiveCorp, its Board of Directors and ALEC to keep both the sheep and cattle export trades open and profitable, which is to the betterment of the entire national livestock industry, and regional and rural Australia as a whole.

With continued high livestock prices in Australia, the opportunities for expanded export volumes unfortunately appear to be somewhat limited in the short term, and there are serious challenges facing the industry.

It is ultimately the responsibility of all the remaining and future directors of LiveCorp to embrace these challenges and to continue to fight hard for the future of our industry.

This is the least we can all do to protect the future and profitability of the livestock industry, and as a reasonable mark of respect to the founding fathers of the live export industry that did all of the hard work to open markets around the world for Australian livestock and genetics.