One of southern Australia’s best known and most successful red meat processors, Bob Rowe died yesterday.
Together with partner, Alan Turner, Bob Rowe established T&R Pastoral based out of Gepps Cross in South Australia in the 1970s. It was a basic livestock trading operation, sourcing sheep and cattle from across South Australia, western Victoria and extending into the northern Territory.
The business later established a joint venture with Metro Meats, moving into service kill processing at the Gepps Cross, Murray Bridge, and Noarlunga meatworks, for domestic and export sales.
In 1988, Alan Turner’s share in the business was bought-out by Chris Thomas, who at the time was a buyer for Holbrook Meats, conveniently retaining the T&R name into its second incarnation.
Under the formidable Rowe/Thomas partnership, T&R continued to prosper. In 1987 it moved from a trading company to becoming an active participant in processing and export. Its first plant was the old government owned SAMCOR meatworks at Gepps Cross, where almost overnight the abattoir went from 30 staff to 230. T&R made its next big move into meatworks ownership when it bought the former CITIC/Metro plant at Murray Bridge in 1988.
Bob tended to control the cattle side of the business, sourcing slaughter stock from across a wide expanse of southern, central and northern Australia, while Chris founded and ran the sheep and lamb side.
T&R eventually became Australia’s third largest red meat processor in recent rankings, following the acquisition of processing plants at Tamworth in NSW and Wallangarra in Queensland, as well as Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills.
The company also became the biggest lotfeeder in South Australia, with 6500 cattle on-feed at the Wanderribby feedlot at Meningie, with a number of backgrounding clients also located in the Coorong district.
In recent times T&R was regarded as the nation’s largest family-owned processing business, responsible for the weekly slaughter of 5000 cattle and 120,000 lambs at its four sites.
Bob Rowe sold his share in the business to the Thomas family in 2008, ending a 45-year connection with the red meat industry. He was highly regarded and fondly remembered by his peers, livestock suppliers and meat customers across the continent.
Over the years the ‘T&R’ name came to mean more than the representation of its founders’ surnames. It came to mean trust and building relationships, representing Bob and Chris’s commitment to total reliability, and their self-described goal to be seen as tenacious and responsible, while being fair in their business dealings.
Last year T&R Pastoral changed its name and identity to Thomas International Foods, to better reflect its new ownership, identity and business focus. The term ‘Pastoral’ in the business name had also long become redundant, with a series of business acquisitions in recent years re-shaping the company into a vertically-integrated supply chain with a heavier focus on export.