Richard's right royal award

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Industry trailblazer Richard Vincent, who was a key player in changing the course of cattle breeding in Australia in the 1970s, has been recognised in the Queen's birthday honours list.

At 90, Mr Vincent is still farming, but these days runs a modest cattle herd, breeding bulls for sale. He also maintains a small band of mares, selling yearlings every year.

Mr Vincent was named an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for services to the beef cattle industry and to thoroughbred breeding and racing.

He once had 28,500 cattle and 446,000ha as the owner of De Grey Station near Port Hedland, the favourite of his many properties.

Mr Vincent said he was simply lucky to be breeding cattle in the right era, but his list of industry credentials over six decades tells a different story.

"I was fortunate enough to be involved in the industry when there was a complete cultural change in the breeding of stud cattle in the early 1970s," he said.

"At that time, quarantine was relaxed and we were able to import semen from European cattle and we were also eventually able to import embryos and live cattle from other countries.

"This opened up a whole new scenario for stud breeding and it allowed us to move away from the traditional way of breeding cattle and implement a more scientific measure of genetic improvement."

Mr Vincent said he was passionate about breaking away from the hidebound traditions of stud breeding, where it was more about winning shows than improving productivity.

With productivity gains clearly the focus of his breeding campaign, Mr Vincent said the new way of stud breeding paid off with higher weight gains, better returns and the extra interest in his bulls at the saleyards, particularly the Simmental line imported from New Zealand.

"I brought the second Simmental bull in from New Zealand to Australia, and this proved to be a valuable addition to our cross-breeding program and we achieved a big lift in production as a result of that," he said. "In the 1970s we even held the Australian record price for a Simmental bull, which we sold in Wodonga."

Mr Vincent acknowledged others for their involvement in the productivity improvements made at the time.

"I had some very talented people working alongside me who helped create a fundamental improvement in beef genetics and the resulting gain in beef production," he said.

"One of these was Dr Arthur Rickards, founder of the Agricultural Business Research Institute of Australia at the University of New England.

"His contribution was to introduce breed plans to the stud cattle industry and the Simmental breed was the pioneer by being the first to adopt it."

Owning farming ventures across the State for 70 years, Mr Vincent began his agricultural career when he left the air force at the end of World War II.

After breaking and driving horse teams in the Dongara area, he was granted a soldier's settlement property in Toodyay.

From Toodyay, Mr Vincent expanded his operations back to Dongara, then on to Williams, Mt Barker, Carnarvon, Port Hedland, and Donnybrook, finally settling in Capel with partner and accomplished horsewoman Jan Cornish.

Climbing through the ranks of the cattle industry, Mr Vincent began his involvement with the Midwest Cattlemen's Association, where he was ultimately elected chairman.

He was the president of the United Beef Breeders Association of WA, chairman of the Cattle Committee of the Rural and Allied Industries Council of WA and chairman of the Cattle and Meat Committee of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association.

His impressive list of industry roles culminated in his election as president of the World Federation of Simmental Breeders, an organisation of which he is now a life member.

Breeding horses for racing has also been a passion, and Mr Vincent cites three horses bred from his business that have all gone on to win more than $1 million each in prizemoney.

Mr Vincent says his love for agriculture began 82 years ago when his grandmother gave him a heifer of his own. He was only eight years old.

"That sparked a passion and, at 90 years old, I still get up and go to work every day," he said.

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