AUSTRALIA’S sheep meat industry has lost one of its most passionate proponents with the passing of James MacGregor ‘Sandy’ Troup last week.
The Victorian prime lamb and wool producer farmed at Raglan west of Ballarat with his wife Jeannette and family, and was most notably president of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia from 1993-1996.
But before, during and after that time he worked passionately to improve the terms of trade for the national sheep meat producers domestically and in export markets.
The Troup family posted on the website of funeral directors F.W Barnes and Son that Mr Troup: “sold his last lambs and left us peacefully on January 13th 2021 at St John of God Hospital (Ballarat) in the care of his family aged 81 years.”
Sheep industry is reaping the benefits of Sandy Troup’s efforts
Sheep Producers Australia chief executive officer Stephen Crisp said the body was sorry to hear of the passing of Sandy Troup. The Sheepmeat Council of Australia transformed into the Sheep Producers Australia in 2017.
Mr Crisp said Mr Troup was president of the SCA during a tough time for the sheep industry.
“This was a time when the wool market was trying to recover and sheep meat was emerging from very low prices, especially for mutton.
“The work done during this time to develop the Middle East trade, as well as deal with a difficult period of regulation for disease, was not easy, and having individuals such as Mr Troup step up and give their time to energy to solving the problems was invaluable,” Mr Crisp said.
“We are no doubt reaping benefits from Sandy Troup’s efforts today.
“The Troup family have been leaders in our industry for generations and we extend our sympathies to them all.”
Industry has lost one of the best
Fellow SCA board member during those years and now a SPA health and welfare sub-committee member, Tasmanian farmer Rupert Gregg said the industry has “lost one of best” in Sandy Troup.
“He was a president of Sheepmeat Council in some of our toughest times, but never lost the faith.”
Mr Gregg said he started on the SCA on the same day with Mr Troup in mid-1980s. He stayed with Mr Troup and his wife Jeanette at the Raglan farm last Easter to help with some sheep work.
Mr Gregg said during the mid-1980s it seemed “everybody who came to see the sheepmeat council was there to read the lamb industry its last rites”, with lamb prices below the cost of production.
“We were dead in the water, you couldn’t give lambs away, the supermarkets wanted to sell 13-14kg lambs without an ounce of fat on them, there was a sort of paranoia about fat – it was really hard.”
Mr Gregg said he and other SCA members, like Mr Troup and Gerald Martin, then had the job of pushing for the promotion of the industry by the Australian Meat & Livestock Corporation (now Meat & Livestock Australia) and the Meat Research Corporation, domestically and overseas, and to help find profitable lamb markets for producers.
“In particular, for heavier lambs, that we could all make some money out of, in the American market.”
This entailed going to American Sheep Industry meetings to promote joint promotions with US producers, he said.
Mr Gregg said he was always trying to get people “in the tent and he was very good at that.”
Troup the Churchill fellow
In 1983, James Troup was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, to study commercial lamb production in Europe for management, nutrition, genetics and marketing. His report conclusions included that: It would be to the producers’ advantage if we had a national lamb marketing organisation, able to monitor production, and direct money to market development, both domestic and export.”
He also advised that Australia look to the trend(s) developing overseas.
“Our lambs must be increased in size by at least 50 per cent to produce a carcase of 24-28kg weight at six to seven months; this can only be achieved through selection of breeding stock of larger size with less fat cover.
“The widespread use of the Merino sheep throughout Europe for meat production, must not be ignored by the lamb producer in Australia,” he said.
Mr Troup also concluded that Australia must “cater to the customers’ desire and give them exactly what they want, describe the product with accuracy, and above all, be consistent in the quality offered.”
Sandy Troup the ‘spy’
The Churchill Fellowship required Sandy Troup to travel to England, Wales, Scotland, France, Spain, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the European Commission in Brussels, but also travelled to the Middle East to investigate live sheep export markets.
Mr Gregg said he remembers Mr Troup being held as a spy in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s when the authorities took umbrage at him taking photographs as part of his live export investigations at a port which had a naval base in the background.
“He had to sign a piece of paper saying he was a spy.
“The iman actually said to him ‘if you sign that piece of paper we will let you go’,” Mr Gregg said.
“So he signed it as if he was a spy and they let him go.”
A solid friend respected for his achievements
Raglan farmer Douglas Ball said the Troups welcomed he and his wife Pauline as newlyweds to the area.
He remembered trying to keep a fenceline straight while driving cement posts in the winter time with Mr Troup as they had a nip of Stone’s Mac after every post.
“We drank Scotch together, told lies and talked over the top of one another I suppose, but I always respected Sandy for his achievements.”
Mr Ball said Mr Troup was never reticent in coming forward with his opinion.
“Whether you liked it or not you got it.
“He was just a good solid friend who you could share confidences with and in most respects wasn’t judgmental, in my case anyway.”
Farming friends remember a strong community man
Raglan farmer Rodney Thomson said he remembers Mr Troup’s efforts to promote lamb and as a person who worked for the community.
“He never worked for himself and that is probably why he went on and joined the sheepmeat council.
“He lived a quiet life, but he went around the world twice in his work with the sheepmeat council.”
Mr Thomson’s wife Kaye said Mr Troup’s was determined to lift the returns of lamb producers when prices were under $2 a kilogram.
“It sounds as though that thanks to him that we are now living comfortably on our lamb sales.
“He was fun to be around and very passionate about whatever he did.”
Former stock agent Terry Cullen said he remembers serving with Mr Troup on the Beaufort Agricultural Society Committee and school council for years.
“He was a very community-minded fellow and was very passionate about the lamb and sheep meat industry.”
A service to celebrate the life of James MacGregor (Sandy) Troup will be held at Beaufort Uniting Church, Livingstone St, Beaufort, on Friday 22nd January 2021 at 11 a.m. Due to Covid-19 restrictions those attending have been asked to supply their own chairs and shading for outside seating. For more details on Mr Troup’s funeral or to view the livestream click here.