Stephen ‘Squiz’ Squires is one of those guys that everyone knows in his home state of Western Australia. He’s got this presence in the wool industry that is not only loved, but adrmired. Respected.
Chatting to Squiz he’s a pretty laid back guy, one of those who you just fall easily into conversation with and can quite happily stay there for a few hours. I spent two days with him, being chauffeured around the great southern district of WA visiting woolgrowing properties, getting to know him and tapping into his wealth of knowledge of the wool industry.
Growing up on the family farm at Mukinbudin in the Central Wheat Belt, Squiz has admired sheep and what they can provide from a young age. Although he has always loved and respected sheep, he took the long way round when it came to starting his career in wool.
(Stephen and Shearing Contractor Lowanna Jury)
Messing around with a few jobs inbetween completing year 12 at Wesley College and starting his role as a Junior Wool Technician Officer at 21, Squiz’s gap year(s) saw him trying his hand in concrete fencing, bottle shops and hotels. All this time in the city (although great for his social life) eventually had him yearning for the life he seems to be destined for. A life in agriculture.
Starting his certificate of Woolclassing at TAFE in Oconnor as he was wrapping up his stint in the city, he soon found that it wasn’t the shed work that was grabbing his interest, but the technological parts of the Industry, marketing, testing and processing qualities. Steering away from woolclassing, he approached several brokering and buying companies in Fremantle and finally landed a position at Wesfarmers in 1990.
Now based in Kendenup and working as a Wool Technician for Primaries of WA – A Ruralco Company, Squiz is not just about kilos in wool bales, there’s so much more passion to his life in wool.
‘I know that a lot of people, in similar roles as mine, have no idea where and how the wool has been grown. They don’t seem to be interested. They just want the wool. I couldn’t be like that.’
So much more excitement.
‘The greatest thing about the Industry – it never stays the same. I’ve never done two days exactly the same. Seasons vary, so the wool characteristics change from one year to the next. The market changes every week, every day and every hour. Growers shear at different times. No two wool clips are exactly the same. Some growers work on heavy stocking rates, others spread them out. There are countless bloodlines in Merinos, different soil types, different rainfall, droughts, floods, different animal husbandry practices, fertilising strategies, the list can go on and on.’
As my time travelling with Squiz wrapped up, he left me with a sense of hope for the industry no matter what it is facing. Wether wool prices were low or the paddocks were bare, we always have the chance to do the best with what we’ve got.
‘I started in the Industry when the price for wool was protected. I saw the massive stockpile. I saw the wool price collapse. I’ve seen people come and go – growers, buyers, brokers. All the big Japanese buying companies are gone, most of the European ones too. I’ve listened to all the knockers that the industry is dead! But I can still feel a pulse.’