A '100 per cent country boy' makes the shift from rural transport to livestock rep
With roots in the region, Cameron Gray started as a PGG Wrightson South Canterbury and Waimate livestock representative in October 2021. A 100 per cent country boy, Cameron's home patch is Cannington, Cave, 35 kilometres west of Timaru, where his parents have a 200-hectare property running 800 ewes and 70 breeding cows.
Cameron left school in 2012.
"I went to work at Temuka Transport. My father drives, which led me into it. I graduated to driving stock trucks through the South Island. Although I made a good living and enjoyed the countryside, after seven years, I started working out what I wanted to achieve in life and thinking about a different direction."
Around that time, Greg Uren of PGG Wrightson South Canterbury approached Cameron in the Temuka Saleyards.
"He asked would I like to become a stock agent? I said: 'Funny enough, I've been thinking about that,' so I came on as a trainee for two years.
"I had no idea what a livestock rep did. Driving a stock truck, I only saw part of the job. I thought agents leant on drafting gates and drove around looking cool. Being a trainee for two years opened my eyes to the industry. I achieved things I never thought I would," he says.
Auctioneering was one, taking Cameron into the unknown.
"Greg said, 'You need to do this.' I like being in the background, doing my own thing, so when he put me up to sell prime lambs at the Temuka sale, that was in the deep end," he says.
However, he quickly became good enough to compete in the 2020 Heartland Bank Young Auctioneers Competition, pitting rural professionals under 30 up against each other. He finished third in his first shot at the title.
Once the two-year trainee-ship finished, Cameron went back to Temuka Transport as a group sales rep.
"It was a job I fancied a crack at when I was driving. After finishing the trainee-ship, I knew I wanted to be in livestock and was keen to come back to PGG Wrightson, though there was no suitable position right away, so I decided to bide my time, give it two years and see what happened."
Seven months on, the right job came up, and Cameron came back.
"One of the best parts of the job is rocking up to people's places knowing they appreciate you. You might be the only person they see that day, so even though you are there for business, that's only part of it. Seeing your clients, having a yarn, one on one when no one else is listening, some people open up. I enjoy hearing stories: how they got where they are.
"You can't beat driving out of the gate knowing you've made their day. If you've helped them outselling or buying something, given them some advice or just put a smile on their face, that's the best part of the job," he says.
As a livestock newbie, Cameron knows he can do the job, though he also has to earn the right to work with clients.
"You have to earn that trust by being honest and being yourself. You have to be a people person. You have to make sure not to let your clients down, and be prepared to admit when you make a mistake. There's nothing worse than running away from a problem, though the key is not having that problem in the first place.
"Confidence is important, and you can't stress about something you can't change. People worry what will happen in future, though the first decision is usually the right decision: if you want to do something, either make it happen or move on," he says.
With plenty of experienced colleagues in the region, Cameron has some good mentors on which to base his own career.
"Many of the guys we have here have been loyal to the company for 20 or 30 years. I would like to be like that. When we get together in Temuka, they talk about the old days. When I'm in that position, if I'm lucky enough to be like them, I wonder what stories I'll have to tell the young fellas then," he says.