Westcoast Wool & Livestock is celebrating 25 years!
IT has been a journey of hard work and dedication, but Westcoast Wool & Livestock is celebrating an impressive milestone this year.
After starting out with just one forklift, three agents and 500 square metres of leased floor space, the Bibra Lake-based company is this year celebrating 25 years in the Western Australian wool trade.
For original founders, managing director Luke Grant and operations manager Mal Edinger, it has been an interesting ride since the 100 per cent Australian owned company began from humble beginnings in 1996.
Changes in their employment conditions at Elders prompted the duo to branch out on their own into the world of private wool buying, focusing on growers around York, Katanning and Albany.
After years of paying thousands of dollars in rent, Grant and Edinger found a block on Barrington Street in Bibra Lake and built their own store, a permanent home for Westcoast, moving in in January 2000.
This move corresponded with a recent shift in their business model, whereby they expanded their private wool buying focus into offering growers the opportunity to sell their wool at auction.
Renowned wool auctioneer Brad Faithfull joined the Westcoast team and the business set about building on its handling of the WA wool market share, which has grown from about 1 per cent to now accounting for about 20 per cent.
Another milestone for the company came in 2003 when they bought the Great Southern Wool Centre in Katanning, which has allowed Westcoast to operate the only regional AWTA-accredited handling and testing facility and in turn offer significant savings for southern WA clients.
Then in 2006 Westcoast moved into exporting wool in their own right, allowing them to provide exclusive market information, intelligence and advice, more market opportunities and maximum price benefits for their grower clients.
In recent years they have invested heavily in the local industry, including installing some of the latest wool testing equipment available in Australia.
Westcoast invested half a million dollars into a state-of-the-art Wooltech core machine for its Bibra Lake wool store in 2019, the first such investment made in a core line system in WA for many years, and with the capacity to do 1000 bales per day, at least 25 per cent quicker than their previous machine.
Westcoast is an accredited member of the Independent Livestock and Property Agents of Australia, and has selling facilities at Muchea and Katanning.
It also has strong links across the supply chain, including with processors and supermarket chains, and supplies all major livestock exporters which ensures optimum competition for producers.
True to their ever-evolving business model and willingness to move with the times, Westcoast again branched out in 2011 and added a livestock arm with the acquisition of the FarmWorks Livestock business, driven by Faithfull and Kulin-based chairman Barry Gangell.
The move was seen by the company as a natural progression and way of cementing their wool business, by offering clients another option when selling their stock.
This year Westcoast’s livestock division marks 10 years in the industry, during which time it has grown to carve out a 20 per cent market share, including significant growth in sheep and cattle numbers handled by the company.
It has all the while continued with its original building blocks of providing personalised, face-to-face service to growers.
Over the years the company has built up an impressive network of both wool and livestock agents and staff to cater for growers all over WA.
So it is not surprising that it is making a foray into yet another field to benefit those growers, with real estate now on its agenda as of July 1 this year.
Westcoast Wool and Livestock has teamed with Raine & Horne to launch Raine & Horne Rural WA to service the rural broadacre markets primarily in WA and the Northern Territory.
Livestock managing director Gerald Weatherall said real estate was a natural progression for the business and fit comfortably with the livestock arm.
It would offer primary producers yet another option to sell their farms, while also giving the company the opportunity to deal with the new owners of the property and present their livestock and commercial finance services to them.
Despite all the growth and expansion, one thing has always remained the same- the Westcoast Wool and Livestock commitment to service and working with their clients at ground level.
For Luke Grant, it’s been an incredible 25 years.
“To end up the size we are, exporting and broking wool, dealing in livestock and moving into real estate, is probably not what Mal and I expected when we started 25 years ago,” he said.
“It’s been a steady growth, and it has exceeded what we thought we could do when we started, thanks mainly to the support of WA growers.”