A MAJOR development program is underway on Northern Territory cattle station Amungee Mungee where the new owners plan to increase the number of watering points from 20 to 160 over the next three years.
Located east of Daly Waters, Amungee Mungee was recently sold bare of stock by the Zlotowski family for $6.5 million to a partnership involving majority shareholder BB Retail Capital, owned by Australian retail magnate Brett Blundy, and minority shareholder Bullwaddy Pastoral Co, owned by Emma and Adrian Brown. The Browns are also owners of Katherine-based business Northern Stock Water, which is the only manufacturer of polyethylene (PE) pipe products in the NT.
In the past 10 years Emma’s parents, former King Island dairy farmers John and Trish Dunnicliff, have undertaken a vast rotational grazing and water infrastructure development program on their Barkly Pastoral Company holdings, which encompass the perpetual pastoral leases of Beetaloo, OT Downs and Mungabroom, and which since 2010 has also involved external investment from BBRC.
Amungee Mungee adjoins the Beetaloo Stations and a similar development program is now planned for the new holding.
The Dunnicliff family has overseen around $40 million of investment in new fencing and water infrastructure since buying the Beetaloo holdings from Peter Sherwin in 2002.
The expansion of stock watering points across vast areas of the one million hectare holding is designed to allow the cattle operation to utilise more areas of previously inaccessible pasture while ensuring stock do not have to walk more than 2km for water. From a carrying capacity of around 20,000 cattle in 2002, the development program is expected to enable the Beetaloo aggregation to carry 100,000 when complete, with an ultimate production cost of 32 cents per kilogram.
A comprehensive article about the Beetaloo infrastructure development program written in 2012 for the “soils for life” program can be viewed by clicking here, while John Dunnicliff’s address to the Soils for Life conference in March this year can also be viewed in the video at the bottom of this article.
The Amungee Mungee venture is the latest example of local production knowledge partnering with external capital to unlock some of the vast untapped potential of northern grazing systems.
BB Retail Capital was founded in 1980 by Brett Blundy who built his initial fortune by growing a single record store called “Disco Duck” into a 238-store strong Sanity Entertainment Group, encompassing HMV and Virgin Entertainment, before selling it in 2009. Today the company’s investments include, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more than $500m in property interests including homemaker centres and retail spaces leased to groups including Harvey Norman and the Wesfarmers Ltd.-owned Officeworks; majority stakes in retail brands Diva and Lovisa, stakes in lingerie chain Bras N Things, the candle and home fragrance retailer Dusk and the bed linen chain Adairs, and a 40pc stake in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
In addition the BBRC Beef division has, with its affiliates, aggregate cattle stations covering 1.4 million hectares in the Northern Territory through its interests in Beetaloo, Mungabroom, OT Downs (together the Barkly Pastoral Company) and Amungee Mungee. The company’s interests include a herd of approximately 85,000 head of cattle which it says is rapidly growing toward its’ 150,000 head full capacity.
In an Australian Financial Review profile Mr Blundy recently stated that he sees significant opportunities ahead for Australia’s livestock export trade and from his Singapore base is seeking to explore other markets outside of Indonesia and Vietnam. A BBRC company statement to Beef Central said BBRC Beef aims to feed Asia’s growing appetite for quality beef through investing in cattle farms in Australia, deploying a unique infrastructure development approach.
US magazine Forbes recently listed Mr Blundy as Australia’s 33rd richest person with an estimated fortune of US$835.
In the BBRC statement issued to Beef Central, Brett Blundy said the acquisition of Amungee Mungee represented the next step in the company’s expansion in Australian cattle farming. “The purchase further solidifies the company’s position as a serious operator in Australia’s beef cattle industry,” he said.
Mr Blundy said BBRC would continue its investment in infrastructure development on the stations.
Investment in improvements on Amungee Mungee is expected to maximise carrying capacity and bolster stock available for export and the local feeder market.
“Since our involvement in Beetaloo Station, which commenced in 2010, we have been building our beef business and this acquisition represents our commitment to actively growing this part of the BB Retail Capital portfolio as our current priority,” Mr Blundy said.
“We are excited about developing this property to maximise its carrying capacity alongside Adrian and Emma, and continuing to explore future opportunities for growth in beef.”
Emma Brown told Beef Central this week that the partnership has plans to take the 3196sq km Amungee Mungee from 20 waters to about 160 waters in about three years with in excess of 30,000 cattle.
The partnership has also been able to secure the purchase of 10,000 breeding cattle from AA Co.
AA Co managing director Jason Strong told Beef Central the cattle sale was made in December and is based on structured delivery schedule.
Adrian Brown told ABC Radio last week that the initial focus of the operation will be on breeding cattle for the weaner market.
“We’re cutting the property into smaller paddocks and putting waters in every 4km, or a little bit less, depending on how it fits into the existing system,” he said.
“At the end of the year we should have 66 paddocks, and we’ll be looking at a rotation, but we’re still looking at all options at the moment.”