Property

Weekly property review: Defining grazing property sales for 2023

Property editor Linda Rowley, December 8, 2023

An aerial view of Cherylton Farms.

THIS week’s property review showcases a state-by-state snapshot of the defining property sales across Australia, as reported over the past 12 months.

This is not a definitive list, as other significant properties have sold in off-market deals. It is, however; interesting to look back over the past year at the prices and size of the more significant cropping and mixed farming properties that have changed hands.

Biggest transactions

January – International clothing manufacturer, Zhejiang Sunrise Garment Group (operating as Smart Shirts), paid around $120m for Gundaline, one of Australia’s largest irrigated farming operations.

Gundaline is located near Carrathool in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation area of southern New South Wales and its 14,916 hectares boast 6000ha of first-class flood irrigation with the balance comprising dryland cropping and grazing.

Described as an A-Grade agricultural asset, Gundaline grows cotton, soybeans, wheat, canola and faba beans. A further 750ha has been identified as having potential for intensive horticulture development.

The asset has secure access to surface and groundwater entitlements, as well as substantial water storages which total in excess of 17,000ML.

Western Australia

January – Cherylton Farms, an institutional mixed farming opportunity located in the Great Southern region, achieved what was described as a ‘record breaking’ price of in excess of $100 million on a walk-in, walk-out basis.

It was purchased by Victorian-based Excel Farms, backed by Canadian investment firm Fiera Comox. The 8554 hectares span two non-contiguous high-performing dryland cropping (cereals and oilseeds) and livestock (sheep, lamb and cattle) enterprises.

The well-watered property is situated in a 551mm average rainfall region and benefits from high quality soil types and undulating topography.

Infrastructure includes more than 300km of new fencing, 30 silos, 10 sheds (including a 2000 tonne grain/fertiliser shed), four shearing sheds (one with 17 stands), 10 sheep yards, two sheep feedlots (6000hd), a cattle feedlot and nine residences.

May – Energy giant BP’s Low Carbon Australia paid a district record $23m for the 22,568ha Daisy Downs, offering a carbon opportunity.

Daisy Downs is located north of Mullewa and 120km from Geraldton in the state’s mid-west. It features high yielding capacity red loam soils and some yellow sandplains with a large cropping program that could be expanded.

The non-arable portion is suitable for a livestock enterprise or a carbon project.

Following the sale, BP announced it would establish green hydrogen production facilities (wind and solar) on Daisy Downs and lease the agricultural business to a neighbour for cropping.

Daisy Downs was sold with extensive infrastructure including a five-bedroom home, numerous silos and sheds.

Queensland

February – Two buyers paid $65 million for Emerald’s 4386ha Gemfields

Portfolio – two non-contiguous properties featuring an irrigated cropping (cotton and wheat) opportunity and an established macadamia orchard.

The 3607ha Cypress and Bauhinias portion was purchased by high-profile Emerald-based grower Craig Pressler, 2PH Farms, while the 779ha (455ha macadamia orchard) Gemfields holding was secured by Canadian-based investment firm, Manulife.

The aggregation has 728ha of laser levelled flood irrigation (that could be expanded for cotton production), 125ha of centre-pivot irrigation and 80ha of dryland cropping, with the balance used for grazing.

Gemfields boasts extensive water infrastructure development and availability from the Nogoa Mackenzie Supply Scheme, 6090ML of water entitlements and multiple water storages.

November – A local producer paid around $45 million for the 10,619ha dryland cropping property Picardy Station boasting impressive credentials.

The property is situated 10km east of Dysart in the Isaac region and its 7819ha dryland cropping rotation grows sorghum in Summer, chickpeas over Winter and cover crops (to build soil carbon in a regenerative agronomic system) with the 2800ha balance used for grazing.

The property boasts some of the best soil types along Australia’s east coast, and its deep self-mulching clays have a well above average Cation Exchange Capacity (the amount of nutrient a soil can hold) ranging from 27 to 60meq/100g.

Picardy Station has been baseline assessed in preparation for a sequestration project.

The property’s infrastructure is described as outstanding and includes 5300t of grain storage, numerous sheds, cattle yards and a two-bedroom manager’s residence.

New South Wales

November – Victorian poultry pioneer David Bartter sold the 26,839ha Ballandry Station, in New South Wales’ Riverina, to a joint venture between Excel Farms managing director Nick Paterson and Canadian investment fund, Fiera Comox.

The walk-in-walk-out sale which achieved close to $120m included 45,457ML of Murrumbidgee Irrigation Delivery Entitlements, as well as the 2023 crop.

Ballandry comprises 16 dryland cropping properties (amalgamated over 40 years) with an annual cropping rotation program of wheat, barley, canola, lupins, field peas and vetch across 21,833ha.

Infrastructure includes 20,000 tonnes of grain and fertiliser storage, machinery sheds, workshops and plant and equipment.

August – Lawson Grains added the 13,498ha Lachlan Valley property Jemalong Station to its growing portfolio for around $85 million.

The property is located downstream from Forbes in New South Wales’ central west. It grows a variety of cash and fodder crops, as well as producing beef, lamb and wool.

Close to 10,000ha has been developed for dryland cropping and perennial pastures and 1562ha is suited to grazing.

The grey chocolate to red and sandy loams grow cotton, wheat, canola and oilseeds.

The irrigation infrastructure consists of 311ha under centre pivots, 805ha of linear-move irrigation and a further 524ha of flood/border-check irrigation.

This is complemented by access to 2580ML of Upper Lachlan alluvial groundwater and 1134ML of Lachlan River General Security Water delivered via the Jemalong Irrigation Scheme.

Other improvements include a 5500t grain storage complex, numerous sheds, a six-stand woolshed and livestock yards.

In April, the corporate grain farmer paid more than $35m for the 2868ha Green Park Aggregation in the southern Riverina region of New South Wales.

The versatile holding is located 12km west of Rand and 77km north-west of Albury-Wodonga and is renowned for producing cereal, legume and oilseed crops, as well as prime lamb and wool production.

Victoria

November – Guangxi Investment Co Ltd added the iconic Greystones estate to its already impressive portfolio for a reported $80 million.

The 4033ha property has been operating as an extensive cropping and a superfine Merino wool enterprise, near Rowsley, north-west of Melbourne.

Around 1214ha are set aside for dryland cropping, with 2808ha of native and improved pastures running 6000 sheep.

Greystones was settled in 1840 and boasts an historic 13-bedroom bluestone mansion and represents an unprecedented land bank opportunity given its proximity to Melbourne.

Infrastructure includes nine dwellings, shearers quarters, several sheds, a six-stand shearing shed and sheep and cattle yards.

South Australia


April – A South Australian irrigated and dryland cropping and grazing opportunity was snapped up the Mitolo Group, in partnership with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and its Australian agriculture subsidiary AustOn Corporation, for more than $30 million on a walk-in, walk-out basis including crops and a substantial list of plant and equipment.

The 3932ha irrigation and mixed farming asset is located near McCallum, not far from Bordertown, in the South Australia’s upper south-east.

There are 1000ha of irrigation developed over 27 centre pivot sites, including 18 centre pivot irrigators each watering mostly 40ha circles growing cereals, legumes, vegetables and brassicas.

In addition to its significant 3072ML irrigation assets and water entitlements, Kynoch has a vertically integrated onion enterprise, Rowett Onions where the vendors grow, pack and supply red and brown onions to national clients.

September – The Wild Creek Aggregation, spanning 1143ha across four non-contiguous properties at the foothills of the southern Flinders Ranges, achieved $10.6 million.

The aggregation is located in the Melrose area, in the upper mid-north region. The four broadacre cropping and hay holdings have gently undulating to relatively flat arable land, with mostly red and brown clay loams and some deep black soils.

Mark and Paul Rundle secured the adjoining 368ha Wild Dog Creek for $6m ($16,304/ha) and the 68ha Rookhatt for more than $950,000.

The 257ha Sanders block sold to David Kumnick for $2.4m ($9338/ha), while the 449ha The Plains sold to Raymond Morgan for $1.25m (including the existing Winter crop).

Across the aggregation, infrastructure includes a home, various sheds, a shearing shed and yards, substantial rainwater storage, 1200 tonnes of grain storage and a feedlot.

Best performing region

An industry expert told Grain Central that up until recently central Queensland (particularly around Emerald) was a sleeping giant in terms of institutional investment.

But a number of significant sales in 2023 shows buyers are recognising the region represents good value for money.

In addition to the $65m sale of the 4386ha Gemfields Portfolio (mentioned above), in July Andrew Keeley, Gindie, paid $28.5m (land & water) for the blue ribbon, irrigation, dryland cropping and livestock enterprise Kingower in Queensland’s Central Highlands.

The 3262ha of self-mulching and alluvial soils are located 16km north-west of Emerald and comprise 742ha of developed irrigation country, 774ha of dryland cultivation and 1539ha of grazing.

The property has 4709ML of secure water entitlements, supported by a significant overland flow and 9425ML of on-farm storage.

And in November, a local producer paid around $45m for the 10,619ha Picardy Station, a dryland cropping property boasting impressive credentials.

The station is situated 10km east of Dysart in the Isaac region, it grows sorghum in Summer, chickpeas over Winter and cover crops to build soil carbon in a regenerative agronomic system. Cereals and dryland cotton could be also added to the 7819ha dryland cropping rotation.

With highly productive, deep self-mulching clays with a well above average Cation Exchange Capacity, Picardy is described as boasting some of the best soil types along Australia’s east coast.

The outstanding infrastructure includes 5300t of grain storage, numerous sheds, cattle yards and a two-bedroom manager’s residence.

In summary

2023 (disclosed) cropping and irrigation property sales reported by Grain Central show:

 0 properties sold in the sub $5m bracket

 5 properties sold in $5m-$10m

 7 properties sold in $10m-$15m

 4 properties achieved above $15m

2023 (disclosed) mixed farming property sales reported by Sheep Central and Grain Central show:

 2 properties sold in the sub $5m bracket

 5 properties sold in $5m-$10m

 10 properties sold in $10m-$15m

 18 properties achieved above $15m

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