Vale Andrew Gubbins, Te Mania’s inspiring, innovative leader

19 January 1935 – 27 May 2020.

Marian Macdonald, Stock and Land has written this remarkable tribute to the late Andrew Gubbins in which she captures his very essence  –

“ANDREW Gubbins was an environmentalist in the 1960s, had Monash University trialling IVF on his cattle in the 1980s and developed a fully-fledged succession program, complete with a coach to keep communication on track, in the 1990s.

The plaudits have flowed since Mr Gubbins’ death on May 27, with many calling him ‘visionary’. He was one of the few people who richly deserved the title.

Mr Gubbins leaves a clear legacy as an innovator who spurred the Angus breed’s ascendancy with his scientific approach to breeding at Te Mania Angus.

Hugh Beggs of Nareeb Nareeb Station, Glenthompson, and Mr Gubbins went to school together, remaining very close lifelong friends.

“I recognised early that he was going to make a success of the cattle industry,” Mr Beggs said.

“He would say, ‘We’re not breeding cattle, we’re breeding meals on plates.’

“He went to a lot of trouble, visiting those who used it, the chefs and the restaurateurs, to say, ‘How can we make it better?’. And then, with this came things like marbling and tenderness.

“Now, as a result of all that followed, when you go around restaurants today, it’s always an Angus burger.”

Even so, his family and friends say they want the man remembered for much more than a breed, a brand or even his brains.

He had heart. And that revealed itself in courage, strength and generosity of spirit.

“He was a very astute and lovable gentleman. And I say the word gentleman loudly because he was a gentleman. He looked after people,” Mr Beggs said.

Not long after leaving school, Mr Gubbins spent 1955 as a ringer at Fossil Downs in the Kimberley, where he fell in love with the outback.

Daughter Amanda McFarlane said he credited working with the indigenous stockmen instilling in him his cattle handling skills as well as developing his appreciation for the natural environment.

In 1960, he bought a bush block at the foot of the Otways near Colac, naming it ‘Pardoo’ after an outback station.

As Mr Gubbins carved Pardoo’s paddocks out of bush, he left thick corridors of bush untouched to provide wildlife corridors through sheltered pastures.

“When he got the block of scrub south of Colac and developed that into a farm, it was done in a way which was, at the time, unique because of his love of nature,” Mr Beggs said.

Tom Gubbins remembers his father as an inquisitive bushman who loved to scale trees to inspect hollows or spy on an eagle’s nest, who’d even pause to shift a worm off a track.

“I suppose his cattle breeding extended from that because of his understanding of environment and nature,” Tom said.

“It was easier for him to see the the effects of genetics and he sort of could see the evolutionary forces.

“So he set out to create artificial evolution by measuring which animals were more profitable and used science to help him do that.”

Not that Mr Gubbins was a boffin.

“He was quite an intellectual but he wasn’t regarded by conventional intellectuals as one because he couldn’t communicate perhaps quite at their level because dyslexia limited his vocabulary,” Tom said.

“But at the same time, he was very adept at understanding science and commercialising it.”

The University of New England’s Animal Genetic Breeding Unit director, Professor Robert Banks, said he had no idea Andrew Gubbins was dyslexic.

“He had an open mind and was a careful, thoughtful and intelligent person who respected the knowledge of scientists but was their equal as a human being,” Prof Banks said.

“Andrew was one of nature’s true gentlemen, a quiet but inspiring, innovative leader.”

Asked about Mr Gubbins’ legacy as a breeder, Prof Banks said he was absolutely certain Andrew would insist that he was part of a team.

“The fact that it’s part of a broader network of people reflects the sort of person he was – he brought people together to build and share skills,” he said.

“The result is Te Mania is one of the most impressive, progressive, cattle breeding operations in the world.”

One of those with a big role was, of course, Andrew’s wife, Mary, who was entrepreneurial and “made things happen”, Tom said.

“Mum and Dad were a good team,” he said.

“They bounced off each other very well and contributed to each other’s partnership enormously.

“They were embryo transplanting in 1980 and we still are today.

“He was able to see the advantage of things that were quite bold and brave, but it wasn’t bold and brave for him, it was just easy.”

Some of it, though, obviously took courage, Mr Beggs said.

“I can well remember people saying, ‘Well that young fellow’s really going to muck the Angus breed up, it’s no good at all, these great leggy Angus things’,” he said.

“When you start off as a young fellow and the breed starts going ‘Mumble, mumble, mumble, you’re making a mug of it’, I think you’ve got to have a certain amount of self-confidence and faith.

“I think he just made sure that his objectives were sound and stuck to them.”

Andrew Mole, who advises Te Mania on its marketing, said Mr Gubbins’ innovative streak went far beyond breeding.

“In addition to his family, he had surrounded himself with some very clever people – pasture, nutrition, soils, ET and AI, accounting et al,” Mr Mole said.

“And he took their advice, implemented their suggestions and always kept things moving forward.

“The Andrew Gubbins I knew was not just a beef cattle farmer; he was an innovator, a conservationist and dedicated to sharing his understanding and experience with the wider industry – a man smart enough to know he couldn’t know everything and he had to trust others as much as himself.

“Most importantly; he was a true visionary.”

Unlike many who build an empire, Mr Gubbins was prepared to take a back seat while encouraging the next generation.

“He was totally giving as a parent and set up a wonderful framework for the three of us,” Ms McFarlane said.

“He invited Charlie, Tom and I into the business in 1995 and encouraged each of us to pursue our own paths.

“He was very forward thinking.”

Ms McFarlane and husband Hamish, and Tom Gubbins and wife Lucy, are today at the helm of Te Mania alongside Andrew’s wife, Mary.

By Marian Macdonald, Stock and Land

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