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14 May 2024
Over the Farm Gate

Staff Profile - Russell Moloney - From news to ewes

Russell Moloney’s career took a dramatic shift a few years ago, though he reckons it was a logical one, and he hasn’t looked back.

From standing in front of a camera with a microphone, to standing in a pen with a mob of hoggets might seem an unusual career shift, though it’s a path that has worked out for Russell Moloney. 

After studying at the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch, the Central Otago lad landed what he thought would be his dream job, as a Newshub reporter in Auckland. 

“My ambition was to be the weather man, though after a year I realised that particular life wasn’t what I thought it was. It wasn’t me. I needed to do something more rural.”

He gave away the bright lights and headed back to Central, working on a family friend’s farm in Becks for six months, long enough to confirm that ewes not news was his true future.

“I approached Otago regional livestock manager John Duffy and he invited me to come on board the PGG Wrightson trainee programme in Dunedin, under Chris Swale. While journalism to livestock might seem a strange change, there are similarities. In a livestock role you need strong people skills, good communication, and to be able to gain the confidence of your clients before they will decide to entrust you with anything. You need the same skills in news, so it hasn’t been as big a leap as you might think.”

Two years as a trainee, including in Ranfurly, set Russell up for his present role, as a South Otago livestock rep based in Balclutha.

“In contrast to the previous few years, which were largely prosperous and provided great returns, during the past 12 to 18 months helping clients accommodate decreasing prices has been a challenge, something I haven’t needed to do before. 

“Having been through the training programme and being able to call on the knowledge of the experience members of our team has made that easier to deal with.  More senior colleagues, who have been through tough times and are happy to pass on their experience, have been really helpful in this situation.”

Auctioneering is another part of the livestock role where Russell’s broadcasting background has been useful.

“To be an auctioneer you need to be confident at public speaking and be able to project your voice. As a trainee I had a go at selling fat pens at the Balclutha yards, then I entered a couple of Young Auctioneer competitions. Although I didn’t win those, it was a useful experience. You need to create your own style. I listen to plenty of auctioneers. You pick the bits you like, then add in your own auction style.

“Running a successful auction can be one of the most satisfying parts of the job. Selling cattle under the hammer for a good price, when your client comes up afterwards and tells you they are happy with the job you’ve done, that’s always special,” he says.

Understanding which way the market is heading is another skill Russell works hard on.

“Trying to predict future trends is tough. I’ve focused on developing a good list of contacts that I regularly touch base with, relying on them to provide titbits of information on how particular market sectors are tracking. You need to constantly monitor how things are going, and try to anticipate which way it will swing. Sometimes it’s just crystal ball stuff.”

Outside work, it’s an oval ball rather than a crystal ball that keeps Russell occupied, packing down for Clinton RFC.

“Our team has had a few PGG Wrightson agents go through it. These days I’m the grumpy old one in the front row. The older I am, the slower I get. This season our mission is to win more games than we did last year. Since we only had the one win last year, that might be a realistic goal,” reckons Russell.

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