A career in the livestock industry that started in 1963 as a 15-year-old office junior in Gore has come to an end 55 years later.

Brian McKinnell retired from PGG Wrightson at the end of June after a long career that began in Gore with NMA. In those days stock and station agencies sold everything from stock feed to travel, whiteware and groceries.

As office junior he was responsible for such things paying farmers' accounts and the shearers' wages.

He was in the job when on July 10, 1967, when decimal currency came in.


"Farmers arrived with these big bags of old currency that had obviously been buried or hidden somewhere. There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of pounds involved. I then had to pay it all into their accounts."

As a 20-year-old he began as a trainee stock agent.

He grew up on a small farm with his parents and four brothers just outside Gore. Animals had always featured in his life and the step to stock agent was logical.

"I also got to drive a Chrysler Valiant car which was pretty cool for a young fella."

The car came about because by then the NMA had merged with the company that became Wrightson's and they had the agency for them.

In 1971 he and Marie, who had known each all their lives, got married.


It was a series of promotions that brought the McKinnell family, by now grown to five, to Hawke's Bay in 1994 by way of three years in Nelson and eight in Masterton as livestock manager.

The Nelson agency covered D'Urville Island where the firm would buy rams.

"Sometimes we flew in and landed on the beach. I got around the island on a motorbike and got knocked off it once by wild piglets coming out of the undergrowth. I thought I had broken my leg."

His abiding memory of the island is the song of the cicadas in the summer. "I've never heard them so loud since."

Since the family arrived in Hawke's Bay there have been many adventures.

He has travelled many times to the Chatham Islands to visit clients and tells of going out on a big station there to look for the farmer.

"His wife said he was out on a tractor. However, as I got closer he appeared to take off in the opposite direction and I never caught him."

It turns out the farm worker on the tractor thought he was the police in his blue company shirt and did not want to see him.


Then there was the boat trip to Mexico with a live shipment of heifers. "It was such hard work that lost 10kg."

Some things about the industry have not changed. "Huge numbers of stock are still bought and sold on a handshake."

He says he has met some good people, "and some reprobates".

"I was more than happy to go to work each day. There's always something new happening."

Female stock agents have arrived in the last few years and, although he has no concerns about their competence, "it does worry me seeing them heaving heavy animals around".

Retirement will mean catching up with their eight grandchildren who are in Auckland, Wellington and Paraparaumu.

He also has not quite retired. The old firm has him on standby for busy days at the Stortford Lodge saleyards.

And the origin of his nickname Mince? "My father was a butcher."