MINING baron Gina Rinehart has continued on her relentless expansion path in the beef industry with major pastoral and feedlot purchases in Northern NSW this week.
Her Hancock Prospecting pastoral arm has bought Sundown Valley, near Kingstown, west of Armidale – one of the state’s best known and largest-scale backgrounding and finishing operations – as well as the Gunnee feedlot near Inverell. Both assets were held by owners and developers, Neil Statham and family’s Sundown Pastoral Co.
Beef Central profiled Sundown Valley’s operations in this extensive report in November.
No price for either asset was disclosed.
The high-input, high-output Sundown grazing business is regarded as Australia’s largest high-performance pasture program. With a heavy emphasis on rotational grazing, staff across the company’s entire operations oversee about 25 cattle moves per day, amounting to around 6250 cattle shifted daily and 32,000 cattle moved each week.
Sundown Valley covers 17,800 hectares – 80 percent of which is heavily improved – and is capable of grazing around 10,000 head of cattle under normal seasonal conditions, turning over up to 40,000 head of cattle each year as part of its grower/backgrounder operations. The entire operation has been devoted to contract backgrounding for AA Co cattle for the past couple of years, after earlier holding large-scale supply contracts with supermarkets.
The Gunnee Farm and Feedlot includes a modern 10,000 head commercial feedyard and 1600ha of surrounding country used for crop and forage production and some backgrounding.
Sundown Pastoral Co bought the feedlot six years ago from Mort & Co, and the yard has been jointly managed by both companies since then. Mort & Co has continued to use the yard as an extension of its Grassdale feedlot business.
Together, Sundown Valley and Gunnee will used by Hancock Prospecting to expand its Wagyu cattle and beef business by providing additional breeding and growing capacity, adding further flexibility and diversity to its production capacity. Two years ago, Hancock bought the Maydan specialist Wagyu feedlot near Warwick in southern Queensland in the first phase of its downstream supply chain expansion. In combination, Hancock now holds one-time feeding capacity of around 17,000 head in the region.
Through major earlier Wagyu herd acquisitions and natural herd growth, Hancock Prospecting currently runs about 20,000 Wagyu cattle, from Fullbloods to F1s, across multiple properties in NSW and Queensland. The company says it will continue to expand with ongoing investment.
The additional productivity capacity through the Sundown/Gunnee acquisitions will allow Hancock to produce Wagyu genetics for crossbreeding to create herd improvement, as well as expanding production of its premium 2GR Wagyu boxed beef brand, which is processed at the John Dee export plant near Warwick, before being sold into domestic and international markets. The product is fast developing a strong reputation for quality and consistency.
The investments are a continuation of Gina Rinehart’s commitment to investment in regional Australia, focusing on producing premium, high quality cattle.
Speaking after the transaction was completed, Mrs Rinehart said the Sundown and Gunnee assets were located in a renowned cattle region in NSW that had a long history of producing high quality cattle.
“They are located in between our high quality Wagyu breeding properties near Dubbo and Roma, adding further growth opportunities and scale benefits for management,” she said.
Hancock Agriculture chief executive David Larkin said the company was excited with the purchases, and what they could contribute to growing and refining the company’s 2GR Wagyu brand.
Sundowns Pastoral Co director David Statham said he was ‘pleased and satisfied’ that the businesses would be sold to a “patriotic and iconic Australian company that shared the same passion for Australian agriculture as Sundown.”
“Knowing that the properties will remain maintained to the high standards we have created is very satisfying – we wish Mrs Rinehart and the Hancock team the very best with this acquisition,” he said.
The broader New England region surrounding Sundown has become one of the real hot-spots for grazing land investment over the past 12-18 months, with a series of major, high beast-area value investments made by Paraway Pastoral Co and others. Paraway has spent $100 million on a series of property acquisitions, including Paradise and Newstead, both near Sundown, sold by Sundown Pastoral to Paraway last year.