A city boy turned cattle export identity, David O’Hare grew up in the suburbs of Sydney developing his passion for agriculture at the age of 14.
“As a very young child I always remember being intrigued about the bush and the northern cattle industry,” he said.
“I still remember as a teenager pondering over this book called pastoral properties of Australia, and roll playing an existence on one of those famous runs.”
Completing his schooling at St Ignatius College, Riverview, David developed his passion for agriculture and the export industry.
“Given it was a large GPS boarding school it drew boys from all over Australia and overseas,” David said.
“It was from there that I started to develop the personality that lured me to the bush.”
His father, a British Royal Navy officer who moved to Australia in 1962, went on to run several shipping companies, eventually starting his ‘Bridge Line’ shipping business with colleague Edmund Vestey.
“The Vestey’s need no introduction with their involvement in the meat processing and pastoral industry in Australia dating back prior to World War I,” David said.
“It was some years later that the Vestey’s played a big part in starting my life in the northern pastoral industry.”
Upon leaving school in 1986 David had a failed attempt at university before moving to study and work in London.
“Following in the shipping footsteps of my father I studied at the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers and worked as a dry cargo broker on the Baltic Exchange,” David said.
“I had an exciting time living in the UK for three years, although I still had that burning desire to participate some way in the northern pastoral industry.”
Returning from London for Christmas in 1990, David found himself working in a stock camp at Oban station, once owned by Western Grazing.
“I copped plenty from the boys back then but thankfully time prevailed and all of a sudden I’d been working in the north for 25 years, not 20 minutes,” David said.
“The manager at the time was well-known Western grazing employee Des Stenhouse and I remember with a great fondness his patience when teaching me to ride a horse properly, as he put it.”
David stayed with Western grazing for two years before shifting next door to Ardmore, owned by Stanbroke Patoral Company.
From there he moved to work for MDH Holdings at Devoncourt Station for several years, working alongside well-respected Zanda McDonald.
“It was these years working in a stock camp that really endorsed my aspirations and desire to continue working in the northern pastoral industry,” David said.
A chance meeting in a Mt Isa pub afforded David with his next job working for live cattle export company Austral Livex in Karumba.
“So I left the stock camp for this exciting and thriving industry called live export,” David said.
“Apart from the odd cattle buying job I spent 12 months on this converted cattle ship called MV Molunat, as the ships stockman.”
During this era the Philippines were the preferred destination and largest market for feeder cattle from Australia, prior to the changing demographics in Indonesia.
In 1997, the excessive devaluation of Rupia against the US dollar and other currency cross rates saw the export industry almost reach a screaming halt.
From this David took up the Branch Managers job at Westfarmers Dalgety in Hughenden.
“It was here that I realised I knew nothing about sheep and turned a good sheep and wool business into a small one,” David said.
“Thank goodness for the ever present live cattle trade otherwise I would have most likely been sacked.”
During his time working at Dalgety, David met well-respected agent of the north Don Brown.
“Don introduced me to Jeff Hill from Seals and Steve Ellerson from Austrex cattle,” David said.
“Both men gave terrific support to the northern cattle industry when it was experiencing such hard times.”
As an agent in North Queensland he met many characters including Hughenden’s Eric Johnson and stock agent Peter Dowling who David still does business with today.
But his life as an agent wasn’t all glitz and glam, with the deaths of legendary cattleman and exporter John Quintana and top stock-agent Charlie Maher hitting close to home for David.
“I had a terrific social and working relationship with both great men and their legacy is eternally guaranteed,” he said.
David’s work with Westfarmers Dalgety took him to a career-highlighted posting in the Kimberley, WA.
“I remember penning a contract with Malcome Harris from Go Go station for 16000 feeder and slaughter cattle bound for Indonesia,” David said.
“Certainly the largest single contract I had ever written.”
His time in Kimberley also introduced him to legendary processor Bob Rowe, a man who lived by the principle that he would never leave a yard of cattle without doing a deal.
“Somehow I always left the yard with him (Bob) thinking I had left my pants behind,” David said.
“A hangover would usually follow the experience.”
After his time in the agency business David returned to live export, moving to Darwin to work as the Australian Livestock manager for Austrex.
“I did this for the past 10 years and on average would ship 100,000 cattle per annum, so needless to say we were kept very busy,” David said.
“My role covered from Esperance in WA to north Queensland which has given me an experience covering the cattle industry Australia over.”
“Certainly an experience money can’t buy.”
On reflection David has dubbed his greatest achievement from living in the north as marrying his long-term wife Sara Storer, well-known Australian country music artist and winner of 17 Golden Guitars.
“I would have put her way out of reach of a busted, ugly cattle buyer like myself, but life will continue to amaze me,” David said.
After the “great debate” with wife Sara, David and family packed up to move back south in hope of providing a better education for their three boys – Harry, Tom and Bill.
Today, being a loving father to his boys and a caring husband to pregnant-wife Sara is the most fulfilling experience David could have wished for.
“I am certain that my future will involve cattle and live export industries as it would be silly to overlook the past 28 years,” he said.
“But how they are incorporated and managed is yet to be divulged.”