AuctionsPlus, 19 December 2019
2019 AuctionsPlus Young Guns Winner Ash Driscoll assessing sheep in his Rodwell's attire
Victorian Livestock Agent, Ash Driscoll is proving himself a true leader within the livestock industry and is making an impressionable mark as a genuine, trustworthy, reliable Agent.
And, it is these key qualities that led Ash to win the Inaugural AuctionsPlus’ Young Gun Assessor Award in Sydney last month.
The Young Gun Assessor Award is a celebration of young people within the AuctionsPlus and wider communities, who are recognised for their effort and achievements and making a noticeable difference to the AuctionsPlus network.
All entrants are AuctionsPlus assessors under 30 and are nominated by a co-worker or organisation. Nominees first attend an AuctionsPlus Young Guns workshop, held at Dubbo, New South Wales, which focuses on developing the skills of AuctionsPlus’ next generation of assessors and agents.
In its first year, the Young Guns Award had 47 nominees with the final five selected and interviewed by AuctionsPlus Chief Executive Officer, Angus Street and the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association President, Warren Johnston who chose a runner-up and winner.
The five Young Gun finalists received flights and accommodation to the AuctionsPlus ThinkTank and end of year awards night, where the winner – Ash Driscoll - was finally announced.
Ash Driscoll is a young 28-year-old Victorian Livestock agent, based in south-west Victoria, and quite clearly defines his life and work ethic by being honest, trustworthy and self-confident in his own ability.
These strong characteristics are what clearly stood out to the Judges who believe they will hold him in good stead for a future in the livestock sector.
Today Ash is based at Stawell and works as a Livestock Agent for Rodwells.
From a young age, Ash has been exposed to the livestock industry and would follow his father, Wayne Driscoll – a Livestock Agent for 30 years – to farms and saleyards.
Today Wayne remains one of Ash’s greatest mentors who he now works alongside.
Growing up across Victoria, Ash was introduced to a range of different livestock regions and had an inert understanding of what it took to be an agent.
However, on finishing school Ash considered a career in building and started an Engineering Degree at Ballarat University.
He soon decided he would like to be more hands-on and worked as a building apprentice for about 12-months years before the business folded.
After wondering what to do next, Ash’s father suggested that he had always and a very close affiliation with the livestock sector so should “…make some calls and see if he could try his hand in the industry”.
As luck would have, many agents had already met Ash as a ‘young gun’ and he was well received back into the industry and became a trainee for HF Richardson based at Ballarat in 2013.
“I had retained a lot of information from my past experience with Dad but soon realised how green I was,” Ash explained.
“But as a trainee – I learnt from four different agents who all taught me so many different skills and ways to work with farmers and the industry.
“In particular my trainee mentors were Livestock agents, Bernie Nevins and James Haddrick who helped pave the way forward for my career.”
Ash was exposed to a variety of different livestock sectors, from cattle to fat lambs and quickly learnt a lot about the different breeds and their traits.
Fat and Store sales were his regular gig as well as making onfarm visits to meet the farmer and make livestock assessments.
“For me it was gaining the confidence to build a strong, trustworthy relationship with the different farmers – this is crucial as an agent,” Ash said.
“When I started working at Rowells in Stawell, Damien Harrington introduced me to a good client-base which I eventually managed on my own.
“Going solo allowed me to establish myself within the region and create my own approach and style with my cliental.”
Ash stressed that “… a client-agent relationship is crucial in this workplace as they are trusting us to assess their livestock accurately and then advise as to which market to sell into and for what price.
“It took a couple of years to build up these firm relationships, but that was understandable – as agents, we are helping control and direct their investments.”
Ash was introduced to AuctionsPlus in 2015 after completing an assessor’s course at ALC in Colac, first sheep and lambs and then cattle.
“The key message I learnt was to be clear and consistent in your assessing,” Ash said.
Photography was another key topic taught by AuctionsPlus because photos are vital in showcasing the animal at its best to a potential buyer.
“We were told that it was in our best interest to invest in a good camera – worth about $1000 - as photos are the first thing potential buyers will see when seeking livestock through AuctionsPlus,” he said.
“It is important that we photograph the animal at the right angle – which is front on or standing on the side with their head towards you.
“You don’t want them running around the yard, so you need to have them relax around you, in a spacious enough yard, in order to take the best photos.
“You then take as many as you possibly can – you may take 40 but find only 10 are good enough!”
Today Ash splits his time between assessing for AuctionsPlus, hooking and selling into the saleyards.
Based at Stawell, Ash is in an area which is dominated by merino properties.
He explains that about 10 years ago the region had a lot of Breeder Sales, but today many farmers see the cost-advantage of selling through AuctionsPlus.
“With selling livestock there is a big investment that goes into freight but, with AuctionsPlus the stock can remain in the paddock until they are sold online and only have to be transported once,” he said.
“We have even had flock dispersals of about 9000-head through AuctionsPlus with the idea of keeping costs to a minimum for the farmer while controlling values.”
Ash explains that AuctionsPlus is a very simple, cost-effective process for the farmer.
“We assess the livestock in the yards, and they are then back in the paddock maintaining condition until they are sold,” he said.
“It is a lot less stress on the animals!”
In saying that, Ash stressed that saleyards still played a very important role in the livestock industry and were the lifeline of many farmers - buying or selling.
In 2019, Rodwells at Stawell sold about 20% of the livestock they manage (sheep, lambs and cattle) through AuctionsPlus.
“Farmers are well aware of AuctionsPlus as an option in which to sell their livestock and I see it growing over time as country sale yards are unfortunately forced to shut down,” he added.
“Many farmers use AuctionsPlus because they are eager to sell as soon as possible instead of waiting say four to six weeks before the next market is held.
“We have seen a lot of traditional stock that in the past would have been sold through the saleyards come onto AuctionsPlus.”
With drought ravaging both New South Wales and Queensland, Ash reports that the Western District has had a terrific season.
“Given the circumstances, we (livestock agents) are all supporting each other – and attending the Young Guns workshop at Dubbo provided me with the opportunity to meet some great agent networks up north,” he said.
“Outside of building a firm relationship with your farmer-clients having a strong network is equally as important.
“You form a trusting relationship with other agents that gives you faith in the stock they are selling to your own clients.
“I am speaking constantly to these guys as we learn so much from each other about the state of the industry – especially in NSW and QLD.
“We are seeing a lot of stock coming down from regions such as Dubbo and further north into QLD – mostly cattle at this stage.”
Despite the hardships felt by his counterparts in other states, Ash remains positive about the future of the livestock industry with a belief that prices in the sheep and lamb market should firm up again next Autumn.
“I believe we will see a lot more forward contracts especially in export – and in 2020 I would like to think the cattle sector can start to build up again in both size and quality, depending on climate and rainfall,” he said.
“Demand for our product remains firm both locally and internationally and with any increase in cattle prices the rule of thumb is you then see increases in mutton.”
When asked what advice he can pass onto a potential 2020 Young Gun Assessor – Ash said to be honest, trustworthy and confident in your own ability.
In commenting on Ash as the winner, AuctionsPlus Chief Executive Officer, Angus Street said that he couldn’t help but admire the way Ash conducted himself at both the AuctionsPlus ThinkTank and Awards night, and throughout the course of the Young Guns series.
“Such a gracious winner, a gentleman – and a very forward thinking and dynamic young businessperson and agent,” Angus said.
“He certainly is a true Young Gun and the very future of how we see the industry heading. I was incredibly proud, and humbled, to offer him the trophy that he has worked so incredibly hard to earn.”