Watching Ormond Howe and Colin McKenna share a cuppa and home-baked sponge at Ormond’s kitchen table, it’s plain to see the two have enjoyed plenty of laughs over the years.
“You’ve had more than one cup of tea with us,” remarks Ormond’s wife Joan, also the mastermind behind the delicious fluffy sponge we’re enjoying for morning tea.
Colin and Ormond share close to half a century of mateship, first meeting at the saleyards when Colin was a stock agent for Gippsland and Northern.
“I always remember Colin McKenna in the old saleyards when they were shifted. I’m sitting up the back and everyone’s walking in, opening the gate and closing it behind them,” says Ormond.
“Next second Colin comes in the selling ring, jumps up over the gate and he’s gone.
“Any wonder he’s done what he’s done!”
Ormond and his older brother Basil grew up on a dairy farm at Mepunga East, milking cows before they went to school.
While they farmed with their father the boys lived with their grandparents, as their Mum passed away when Ormond was just two.
Diagnosed with polio and unable to sleep at night due to the pain, Ormond used to go spotlighting for foxes in the middle of the night. His reputation as a proficient fox hunter soon proceeded him and his fox hunting skills became in demand, shooting foxes from Illowa to Simpson.
When they were first married the Howes farmed sheep, but Ormond’s bad ankle meant a move into cattle. They raised five children together, Jennifer, Glenda, Julie, Lesley and David.
Colin and Ormond went to Newmarket together in 1975 to buy steers, as Ormond had sold his Angus stud cattle herd to begin the next 40 years of fattening cattle.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Ormond remembers as the two of them start to laugh. “We bought 360 head, right down one row and half way up the next. The top price I paid was $60 and some of them would have been down to $35.
“I bought 170 the next week and they were $6 dearer!”
He also bought some black heifers through Colin at another remarkable price.
“I was carting super from Portland and called in after the sale, I was looking for some cattle as we’d just bought the paddock over the road.
“I ended up getting them for $4.50 cost; I’d fatten them and would bring them in to sell about 12 a week, getting up to about $4.90.”
It was also Colin that sold the Howes their first herd of Herefords.
“They were the nicest Hereford steers you’d ever look at.
“The Howes always had black cattle. We went into the Herefords because they were cheaper but if was very strange going around the paddock the next day and seeing white faces looking at me!”
89-year-old Ormond has now sold his last lot of cattle, selling 47 herefords through Midfield Direct and obtaining a price that left him speechless.
“I started with Colin so thought I would finish with Colin.”
Colin said their relationship exceeded a business transaction.
“Ormond and Joan are fantastic people and it’s been fantastic to play a small part in a farming career that has spanned more than 70 years.
“Ormond’s an exceptional farmer, very neat and house proud and a great man.
“We’ve always had a connection – they’re great people and it’s been a privilege to work with him over the last half a century.”