Drought, poor prices take toll on beef entries in Qld’s ‘Top 150 Rich List’

Jon Condon, 16/09/2014

DROUGHT and reduced industry profitability took a toll on beef industry stakeholders included in an annual “Queensland’s 150 Richest” list published on the weekend by Brisbane’s Sunday Mail newspaper.

northern-cattle-generic-webIn contrast to the general trend, which saw 87 of the entrants expand their wealth last financial year, most of the 13 beef producers identified on the list lost ground, or at best, remained unchanged.

Despite the relatively poor result, the beef industry remained remarkably well represented on the list. Beef industry stakeholders (from production through to processing) numbered 15, exceeded only by wealth created from the property market (38 entrants) and retail/wholesale (17 entrants).

Surprisingly, the resources and energy sector accounted for only 12 of the 150 entrants, but they tended to be towards the upper-end of the list.

The assessments were made at the end of July. An important qualifier is that the individuals had to be domiciled in Queensland. While there remain some obvious omissions and inconsistencies in the list, and it appears to confuse gross and net worth in some cases, it nevertheless serves as a useful benchmark of cattle industry financial health, against other industry sectors.

“It’s been a very mixed year on the land, with many beef barons moving or reducing their herds and reorganising their operations to deal with drought conditions,” the Sunday Mail’s project editors said.

Here’s a list of the beef producers included in this year’s Qld 150 wealthy list, and how they fared, according to the Sunday Mail:


The estate of the late Graeme Acton, who died tragically in a campdrafting accident earlier this year, emerged as the list’s highest-ranked beef producer, with an estimated worth of $405 million, unchanged from last year. Controlling a herd of 150,000 cattle, the Acton family was ranked 24 on the list, also unchanged from a year earlier.


The Cloncurry-based McDonald family, which suffered its own tragedy last year with the loss of Zanda McDonald in a property accident, was next, with assets said to be worth $375 million, unchanged from last year. The McDonalds, running around 175,000 head according to the list, occupied position 28, also unchanged.


Peter Hughes - Copy

Peter Hughes

Peter and Jane Hughes’ Hughes Grazing enterprise fell four places this year to position 39, on account of a reported $24 million fall in worth to $274m. The family was attributed with 150,000 cattle on properties stretching from the Barkly Tableland to Central Queensland.


The Daniels family from Cloncurry filled position 55 this year, dropping three places, with a net worth estimated at $209 million through the family’s cattle holdings running 80,000 head in the Gulf and northwest Queensland.


The daughter of the late cattle baron, Brian Oxenford, Pam Deamer, this year occupied position 71, down nine places, due to a $7 million fall in net worth to $178m. Western Grazing remains one of Queensland’s top 10 cattle producers, with eight properties running a Brahman herd of +160,000 cattle. The authors attributed lower cattle values to the reduction in net worth.


Following a similar trend was David and Judy Camm and family, who slipped eight places this year to 79, with assets valued at $161 million, a $5m reduction, according to the Sunday Mail. The Camm Agriculture group runs 60,000 cattle in Central and North Queensland, as well as a modern feedlot on the Darling Downs. The list notes that the Camms are taking the opportunity to test the property market this year, offering their Natal Downs 90,000ha aggregation south of Charters Towers for sale.


One of only two exceptions to the broader beef producer trend this year was Central Queensland’s Charles Lund, from Laglan Pastoral Co, who was credited with a $20 million rise in personal worth to $140 million – but it occurred only because the analysts compiling the list became aware of other properties held in Mr Lund’s portfolio. It had nothing to do with increased asset value or profitability. Laglan’s listing position rose from 94 to 88 this year, as a result.


Filling position 91 this year is a new entrant, and obvious omission from the 2013 Top 150 list, Brendan Menegazzo. The Sunday Mail says Mr Menegazzo is an equal partner in Stanbroke Pastoral Co with his siblings Debra and David, but is listed because he is the only one of the three living in Queensland. Stanbroke was attributed with 200,000 cattle on its six Gulf breeding and growing properties, as well as an integrated feedlot and processing facility.


Rising one position this year to 97th on the list was Peter Camm, brother of David, listed above. He is listed as having net worth of $131 million, partly attributed to his purchase during the previous 12 months of 27,000ha Glenprairie, near Marlborough, for $28m. The Sunday Mail suggested he spent last year “buying grazing land for rock bottom prices.”


Alister & Joanne McClymont from Richmond in northwest Queensland filled position 101 in this year’s list, dropping 16 places. Their estimated worth was $126 million, down $6m on the previous year, with a herd size estimated at 50,000 head. “Factors such as the live export ban and drought have made life tough for cattle farmers,” the Sunday Mail said.


Alister’s brother, Malcolm McClymont slipped nine places in this year’s list, to 104. His net worth fell $4 million to $115m, the Sunday Mail suggested. His herd size was identical at 50,000 head, spread across 400,000ha of country in North Queensland.


Bendemeer 4 John Burnett &bulls 23 Nov 2012 007 - Copy

John Burnett

A new entry this year was John and Jan Burnett, from Bendemeer, near Clermont. The Burnetts filled position 133, on account of their estimated net worth of $85 million. Both Peter Hughes and the Burnetts, together with the Menegazzo family, were significant beneficiaries in the 2003 carve-up of the AMP Society’s Stanbroke Pastoral Co.


Fourth generation Central Queensland graziers Blair and Josie Angus filled position 146 this year, down nine places, with a $1m asset value reduction to $70m. The Sunday Mail attributed the fall in value this year to the cost of buying water from a neighbouring coal mine to counter the effects of drought, and a reduction in the size of their 35,000 head beef herd.


Processors go against the trend

Given what’s happened this year with high international beef demand and low cattle pricing due to drought-forced oversupply, it was little surprise that the two entries from the beef processing sector showed strong financial rises, going against the production sector trend:

Trevor Lee’s Australian Country Choice processing business, which services the needs of Coles Supermarkets under an exclusive supply deal, was reported to have had a $20 million rise in net worth to $580m. He shifted up two places this year from 18 to 16.

Queensland’s Teys family, which controls a 50pc stake in the Teys Australia Cargill joint venture, also moved strongly upwards this year in rankings.  The family lifted from position 40 last year to 35 in 2014, with estimated net worth of $320 million, a $38m rise.


Others of interest

The Top 150 list also included some individuals with strong beef industry connections, who were not included in Beef Central’s statistics summary outlined above, for various reasons.

Former Rural Press director Tim Fairfax is a good example. While the Fairfax family operates a substantial portfolio of 10 cattle properties across Queensland, it’s investments in this area are secondary to those in other areas, estimated to be worth $802 million this year, a $22m rise. The Fairfax’s filled position 10 on this year’s Queensland Rich list.

Neil Statham, while owning and operating Sundown Pastoral Co, a major integrated supermarket beef supply chain in NSW, is also heavily exposed to the cotton industry, and made most of his fortune in other industries. He is listed this year at number 27, with a net worth of $383m.

Others with solid beef connections included Noel and Liz Cook (position 148, $65m) who are predominantly grain growers, despite their sizeable beef investment; the Cameron family from Goondiwindi (position 136, $82m) whose primary interests are a shareholding in Sunpork, plus sheep, beef and wheat production; and Andrea McCosker, also from Goondiwindi (position 114, $108m), whose primary interest is cotton.

Two other entries, Simon & David Hall (position 93, $137m) and McLean family (position 95, $134m) hold beef assets including a stake in Legune Station, on the NT/WA border, beef feedlots and feed mills, as part of their broader exposure to pork and egg production through Sunny Queen Farms, which produces half of Australia’s egg requirements.

Leaving the Top 150 list this year was David and Nell Brooke from Birdsville, who last year were listed at position 149, with a worth of $59 million. To qualify this year, entrants needed net worth of $62m, up from $58m last year, which edged the Brookes’ out of a spot.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -