Stock and station agencies provide farmers with a wide range of services, including:
- selling goods such as farm machinery and tools
- livestock sales
- grain and seed breeding
- selling real estate
- lending money.
They are unique to Australia and New Zealand – there are similar businesses in other countries, but they don’t offer so many different services.
The first agency was set up in Adelaide, Australia, in 1839 by Alexander Elder. Elders is still an important Australian company.
Nathaniel Levin went into business in Wellington in 1841, selling food and goods to settlers, and then to farmers.
George Gould sold food, clothing and timber in Canterbury from 1850. He lent money to farmers and exported wool. His business later became Pyne Gould Guinness.
Wright Stephenson grew out of a firm set up in 1861 in Dunedin, and was later called Wrightson.
From the late 19th century, farmers set up their own co-operatives which performed the same functions as the commercial agencies. By 2008 there was just one co-operative left, Allied Farmers.
Takeovers and mergers
At the start of the 20th century, there were at least 40 stock and station agencies. Some small towns had several different agency stores.
After the 1950s, prices for animals and wool fell. Agencies made less money, and there was competition from stores owned by dairy companies. Larger agencies began to take over the smaller ones.
There were many mergers. The largest agency in New Zealand today, PGG Wrightson, was formed in a 2005 merger between two of the earliest companies – Pyne Gould Guinness and Wrightson.
Role in the community
In remote areas, agents bring goods, mail and newspapers, pass on news and gossip, and advise farmers. They help farmers to buy and sell stock. Agencies organise stock sales – in smaller communities these are just once a year, and provide a fun day out for farmers and their families.