Hobson & Co is a leading provider of agricultural and livestock services in the Eastern Cape. We have bridged the generational gap by combining the latest practices and the best service from the good old days. We form lasting relationships with our partners that are built on trust and pride.

We understand that by ensuring the success of our clients we also ensure our own success. We are committed to the support of farmers and transforming & building the agricultural industry in the difficult South African economic climate.

Hobson & Co old auction building interior

Our Story.

The history of Hobson&Co has been very much the story of “Rome wasn’t built in one day”!

In an industry where egos and greed can so easily cloud reality it has been baby steps at a time, to where the business finds itself today.

By taking sound advice from people we respect, by being guided by experienced heads, and building a team that can be trusted, we have managed to fashion a sustainable independent livestock auctioneering business which we firmly believe will be relevant for years to come.

The sage advice and fine example set by Bertie Moorcroft and his family from the EPLA days, and the guidance and shrewd business acumen of John Westwood as an independent director on our board have been pivotal to our growth.

We are also eternally grateful to our loyal clients who believe in the service we provide.

We are very aware and grateful of the fact that we might have been “right place, right time”, and have also had huge slices of beginner’s luck along the way.

At Hobson&Co we are proud of our history, grateful for our heritage and are determined to leave a worthwhile legacy in a world where change is probably the only certainty.

I shall try to sketch the history of Hobson&Co as briefly as possible, from the time I started work as an agent for Eastern Province Livestock Agency on 1st March 1991, the date which we believe is the date when our journey began.

I was employed by the Moorcroft family to be their first official field agent to service their clients in the greater Albany area. Being visionary businessmen they believed the days of the Meat Board and controlled marketing were coming to an end.

We soon realized that there was more to the livestock industry than just abattoir marketing and a huge effort was put into securing feedlot buyers and building a network of regular clients for trade and farming stock.

By 1995 this sideline business had grown to the point that it was almost self sustaining. A network of freelance agents were used to supplement the growing demand for stock. Russell Hobson was one of them and he still operates the Karoo branch today.

In 2000 an independent company, EPLA Marketing was formed. The Moorcroft family generously gave me a 50% share in the company and organised a R100 000 overdraft facility with Standard Bank to kick start the business. The office was a table in the corner of the dining room of my home in Grahamstown. Rose (my long suffering wife), resigned from her job as a radiographer and was employed as the bookkeeper. She still plays a vital role in the business today, and will be very difficult to replace.

Changes came thick & fast from here as the business grew at a rapid pace, sometimes too fast. We were understaffed and EPLA were keen to sell their share in the business to concentrate on an export abattoir in Port Elizabeth.

Luckily for us these developments coincided with the demise of Stock Owners in the Eastern Cape.

Denham Price joined as an agent after having managed the Grahamstown Stock Owners branch for years.

Dave Cockcroft (employed by Stock Owners at the time) had a chance meeting with me on the tailgate of a Bantam bakkie at Manley Flats and was talked into buying a 25% share in EPLA marketing.
Johan du Preez was interviewed at the Boschoek farm stall as a fresh faced youngster who had worked on farms overseas and was immediately employed as the Alexandria agent. He has become one of the most respected agents and cattle experts in the Eastern Cape.

Soon afterwards fate brought Paul Mills, at the time the manager of the Stock Owners local branch, and myself together at a farm where the farmer had double booked both of us to buy cattle because we had the same name. There was immediate rapport and respect between us, Paul joined the company and we had the best auctioneer in the Eastern Cape on our payroll!

These were exciting times and life was hectic. EPLA Marketing started holding livestock auctions and gaining old established sales from other companies such as Bedford and Charlgrove. This growth did not come without pain as we had limited resources, we were relatively inexperienced and cash flows were not easy to manage.

After much deliberation , the young bachelor Bedford farmer, Andrew (Drix) White was eventually convinced to join the business and buy the remaining 25% share of the business from the Moorcroft family.

In 2004, at a meeting held at the Wyvern club in Grahamstown, the entire staff of EPLA Marketing unanimously decided to change the name of the business to Hobson&Co. The in house designed Hobson&Co logo was chosen above a number of very fancy looking ones recommended by a firm who had been employed to look into a new corporate identity.

Dirk van Reenen, the owner of the Sparta beef feedlot said we had made a smart move, as it showed we had confidence in our brand and we were prepared to accept responsibility by attaching our name to the business. 

Little did he know that the ox head with upturned horns in our logo was copied from their logo! I did feel rather uncomfortable about the name and logo for a while, as I felt so many people had contributed so much to build the company.

Hobson&Co bought the Grahamstown auction yard on public auction in that year and subconsciously now had a foothold in the industry. This facility has been systematically upgraded over the years and at present (April 20023) our offices are nearing completion on the property.

For the last 20 years we have operated out of a small basement office at my home 37 Southey street, where our dedicated admin staff have done an amazing job. Time has not stood still and life has honestly been a blur ever since.

Hobson&Co now hold in excess of 100 sales every year, we’ve taken on selected stud auctions, we sell 30 000 plus weaner calves to various feedlots annually, are active in the goat market, and have made huge strides into selling breeding stock.

We also run a fleet of 4 trucks to simplify transport logistics. Hobson&Co have been extremely conscious of remaining a viable option in the industry and have made strategic appointments and decisions over the years.

  • Jeremy MacLachlan has been trained in house to now take over from Paul Mills as head auctioneer and auction coordinator.
  • Paul Mills, still a brilliant auctioneer, will assist him and also becomes our brand ambassador.
  • Sunell Lockwood was headhunted to do advertising and general admin work. 
  • Murray Hobson, a qualified management accountant, is now a 25% shareholder and acts as general manager of the business.
  • John Westwood was used extensively as a business strategist and chairman of our board for a few years. This was probably one of the smartest moves we ever made.
  • Gareth Asher was appointed to run the Hobson&Co operation in the Middelburg area in 2019. He has made a huge success of the venture with his limitless energy.
  • Colby Cockcroft has filled the void as our bio security officer since 2022 when the foot and mouth issue surfaced.
  • Stephan Lombard was also headhunted in 2023 to take over as a full time accountant in the expanding business from Murray Hobson who needs to concentrate fully on running the operation.
  • Our field agents Johan du Preez, Russell Hobson, Rodney Tyson, Chris Lombard, Wayne Brunette, Kobus Lotz, Vernon Sparks and John Hayward have been with us for years and form a formidable team who work incredibly well together.
  • Lompies Lombard joined as an agent in 2022 to bolster the team with a bit of youth.

What will be written in the next chapter of this special little business? Who knows? All I’m sure of is that if we stay grounded, stay dedicated to the task at hand, do not let our egos get the better of our common sense, not be scared of change, stay loyal to our clients and what is morally right, and plan carefully for the future, Hobson&Co will be well placed to serve the next generation of South African farmers.

Paul Hobson

April 2023 

More Stories.

Action at Hobson & Co

The History of the Charlgrove Sale.​

Hobson & Co held their first sale at Charlgrove in August 2002. The Charlgrove Cattle Sale has a long and interesting history beginning in the 1940’s after the 2nd World War.

Hobson & Co's First Stud Sale.

The first Stud sale Hobson & Co held was the Handley & Stirk Bonsmara Auction held at Woodlands, the farm of Lynn Stirk in 2003. We had real beginners luck and the sale was a resounding success.