PROMINENT Angus breeder and objective measurement pioneer Jim Litchfield passed away at his home, Hazeldean, near Cooma last week.
Considered a wise, generous pastoral visionary and a great farming leader of our time, Mr Litchfield was 93 years old.
He was born in Sydney in 1927 and attended the Kings School before joining the navy in 1944. Discharged in 1946 he jackarooed at Uardry before returning to Hazeldean and marrying Barbara Fraser in 1950.
He was an active member of the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association and president from 1980 to 1982.
A decade earlier he was chairman of the NSW Branch of the Angus Society of Australia and chairman of the Cattle Producers subcommittee assisting the creation of the National Beef Recording Scheme in 1972.
A member of the founding committee of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics (AAABG), Mr Litchfield helped organise the first national congress in 1979.
In the 1980s he was instrumental in the development of BreedPlan – his contribution recognised by the national launch of BreedPlan at Hazeldean in 1985.
He was also a member of the Industry Advisory Committee to the CSIRO Division of Animal Production from 1980 to 1990.
Throughout his life James Litchfield’s contribution was recognised with many awards including The Howard Yelland Award from the Beef Improvement Association in 1986, the NSW Agriculture Shield in 1990, the Eliza Furlonge Medal from the Wool foundation of Western Australia in 1992, and the Helen Newton Turner Medal from AAABG in 1997.
In 1995 he was made a fellow of the AAABG and awarded life membership of Angus Australia in 2019. Mr Litchfield received an OAM for services to the pastoral industry in 2018.
Hazeldean was one of the first beef seedstock producers in the world to embrace performance testing and was selecting sheep using measured fleeceweight in 1954 and beef cattle on measured weight gain in 1960.
Stud stock consultant Tony Dowe, who has been associated with the Litchfield family for more than 60 years, said: “At the start of James’s career few people associated the Monaro with pedigreed stock and Hazeldean blood was not discussed much outside the local area.”
However, during James Litchfield’s time this changed significantly when the Monaro and Hazeldean became famous for quality Angus cattle and Merino sheep.
“James never pushed or promoted his philosophies in an aggressive manner but intelligent people listened, and here we are, a generation later where his policies are widely accepted,” Mr Dowe said.
The widespread adoption of measured evaluation of stud sheep and cattle could be mainly attributed to James’ initiative and support, Mr Dowe said.
“His contribution to across flock and across herd comparisons and sale by objective measurement in Merino sheep and beef cattle formed the basis of what is now a widely accepted industry practice.”
Although retiring from Hazeldean in 1994, he continued to help his stepmother, Betty Casey-Litchfield, run her property, Coolringdon, at Cooma.
Coolringdon became a leading example of how to combine efficient productivity with environmental conservation. Following Betty Casey-Litchfield’s death, the Coolringdon Estate Trust was established with profits from the property going to Sydney University for research into agriculture benefiting the Monaro.
On Coolringdon’s Snowy Plain block (bordering the Kosciuszko National Park), he facilitated Sydney University’s Professor Mark Adams’ “HighFire” research project which proved that careful stocking in summer and long rest periods led to greater biodiversity than in the Park next door.
James’ pursuit of conservation goals backed by unbiased scientific evidence are an example for others to follow. He was hopeful, at the time of his death, this research would be taken into account by Park management. Current Coolringdon trustee, Howard Charles, said James achieved much during his long and successful life and was a generous benefactor to so many causes and programs.
“His wisdom and determination to lead our grazing industry to become better custodians of our land will live on and his legacy will continue to influence others for generations,” Howard said.
Allan Casey, formerly of NSW Agriculture, said the following: “If I had to give the name of one person who was both a great leader by action and example and a true gentleman I would say without question it was James Litchfield.”
“It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to have known and spent some time with James Litchfield to experience and take example of someone who had such great qualities not just as an industry leader but as a person,” Allan said.
– Jim Litchfield, Tony Dowe and Howard Charles
Jim Litchfield – a life to be celebrated in the service of continuous improvement of science based livestock breeding and husbandry. A great communicator since we first met in 1981. Patrick Francis (FARM Magazine and Australian Farm Journal).
A far sighted leader who has had an enormous impact on performance recording in this country.