Northwest Queensland grazing property Miranda Downs has officially entered the record books, after it was confirmed this week that the 438,000ha Gulf breeding operation changed hands for $215 million.
After an expressions of interest sale campaign, Beef Central reported agents comments in June this year that Miranda had made ‘considerably more than $160m’, but no official sale price was disclosed at the time.
Property sales data records have since confirmed the price paid by new owners, Peter and Jane Hughes and family’s Hughes Grazing, as $215 million – easily a record high price for a single Australian grazing property not being sold as part of an aggregation.
Pre-sale estimates by property industry contacts had suggested Miranda, located northwest of Normanton on the Gilbert River, could make a conservative $150-$155m, with a cattle value alone of around $80-$90m. To be fair, grazing property price expectations – and the cattle market in general – have risen significantly since then.
Included in the herd of about 55,000 Brahman and crossbred cattle were 20,000 breeders. The property was rated during the marketing process as rated at 66,000 adult equivalents, delivering an AE beast area of 6.63ha.
Expressions of interest in the giant Gulf of Carpentaria calf factory closed on 3 June. Despite the size of the investment, agent Ray White Rural earlier said they had received ‘amazing interest’ in the holding, from a number of sources.
Prominent neighbours include Strathmore to the southeast, held by the Harris family, and Vanrook to the northwest, held by vendor Brendan Managazzo’s brother, Mark’s Gulf Coast Agricultural Co.
In addition to its massive scale and primary focus as an efficient large-scale calf factory, Miranda may have attracted interest from southern irrigators interested in the north’s untapped and largely unexplored cropping potential, given its huge 6000ML water licence from the Gilbert River.
Owners, the publicity-shy Menegazzo family’s Stanbroke Pastoral Co, did not offered a reason for offering Miranda Downs for sale, but market observers suggest the exceptionally strong cattle market and current record highs being paid for quality large-scale grazing assets across northern Australia are a prime motivator. The Menegazzos acquired Miranda as part of its Stanbroke Pastoral Co purchase in 2003.
For a grazing enterprise of its sheer scale, Miranda is set up for highly efficient cattle management, with ten sets of cattle yards and extensive laneways scattered across the property. It was claimed that the holding’s entire 55,000 head herd can be mustered and processed by its livestock team in seven weeks.
Featuring a large double frontage to the Gilbert and Maxwell Rivers, Miranda has large areas of coolibah flood plain country, running back to sandy forest. The past five years have delivered an average weaning rate of 65pc.
The property is well-watered by dams, lagoons and permanent water holes along the rover systems. Most watering points have a 2km grazing radius, with significant expenditure on water development in the past four years.
There are 45 main grazing paddocks, including 364km of new fencing in the past four years.
A large, well-established station complex includes multiple dwellings, staff accommodation and sheds, plus a second outstation complex at Rice Lagoon.
Miranda Downs has been owned and operated by some of the nation’s legendary cattle producers over the past 100 years.
The property was originally held as part of the historic Queensland Stations pastoral portfolio for 60 years, most of which was bought by Elders-backed investors, Coutts Brothers around 1983. Coutts Brothers, who retained the name Queensland Stations from the previous owners, undertook one of Australia’s largest stylo pasture development projects on Miranda, investing around $1.6 million before it was on-sold in 1989 when their business got into financial difficulty amid high interest rates and currency movements as a result of overseas borrowings.
Coutts Brothers sold Miranda to legendary Gulf cattleman Wallace Logan, from nearby Magowra and Milgarra for $6.5 million, including 13,000 mostly female cattle.
Mr Logan in turn sold Miranda to the original AMP-owned Stanbroke Pastoral Co in 1998, for around $9 million, as Stanbroke expanded its northern breeding capacity.
After losing its appetite for the livestock industry, history records that poorly-advised AMP sold Stanbroke under controversial circumstances in October 2003, to a consortium of North Queensland beef producers and Swan Hill businessman Peter Menegazzo, who held 50pc of the stake. The Menegazzo family bought out the remaining Stanbroke shareholders in 2004.
Just 19 months after completing the purchase, tragedy struck when Peter Menegazzo, his wife Angela and their pilots were lost in an aircraft accident after encountering bad weather while flying home to Swan Hill from Brisbane in December 2005.
Miranda Downs today is one of eight gulf region cattle stations owned by the Menegazzo family, running around 200,000 head of cattle across 1.6 million hectares of country. The vertically integrated business backgrounds cattle on country near Wondoan, Chinchilla and Dalby, lotfeeds at its Bottletree feedlot neat Chinchilla, and processes cattle at its export facility near Grantham in the Lockyer Valley, exporting to more than 35 countries.
- Beef Central is currently compiling its annual list of market-defining property sales for the 2021 season, to be published in early December.