McBrides grow wool dynasty in major Vic buy

Wool to remain focus for McBrides at Telopea aggregation

Sheep
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Major SA woolgrowers, AJ&PA McBride, hope to grow their wool clip by 40 per cent through the purchase of nearly 48,000 hectares at Telopea from Hassad Australia.

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Major SA woolgrowers AJ&PA McBride have shown great confidence in Australian agriculture, buying 47,677 hectares in the Telopea Downs area on the SA-Vic border.

The purchase of Hassad Australia’s aggregation is one of the largest single land transactions in Vic and puts it back into Australian hands.

The Qatar sovereign wealth fund aggregated the 11 properties in 2012. 

The sale which settled next month is believed to have come with a price tag close to $70 million. 

The walk-in walk-out deal includes 25,000 ewes plus 30,000 lambs, 600 Angus cows and 1000 trade cattle, and about 10,000 hectares under crop.

Company chairman Keith McBride sees it as an investment for future generations of their family and hopes it will enable them to grow their wool clip by about 40 per cent, running a self-replacing Merino flock.

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The 98-year-old company, which has about 80 shareholders, owns four properties in the South East, Konetta, Ashmore, Nepowie and Brooklyn, as well as five stations in the north-east and north-west of SA, Teetulpa, Braemar, Wilgena, North Well and Yudnapinna.

“As a group we are constantly evaluating opportunities,” he said.

“Wool has always been our core business but in the early 1990s we needed other things to keep the company going so we got into vineyards and buildings in Adelaide.

“As it (wool) has gradually been improving we have been looking to further our interests in the wool industry.”

Mr McBride says they were approached by Elders real estate general manager Tom Russo about the off-market listing and were impressed on inspection.

Nearly 60pc of the aggregation has been clay spread and the McBrides are keen for further pasture renovation.

“It is on a bigger scale than we are used to operating with but we will give it a good shot,” he said.

Mr McBride says the Telopea Downs country will be a good fit with their SE properties.

“Konetta and Ashmore struggle through the wet winters, whereas looking at the Telopea country it is looking quite wonderful but may be quite fragile over summer,” he said.

“There may be opportunities in the difficult periods to move stock between the two areas but we will need to be mindful of any biosecurity issues.”

With a good amount of feed on it he says there may also be opportunities to move a few stock from their stations in the north-east of SA which have been very dry, although these flocks are lambing at the moment.

In the past couple of years, Hassad has transitioned from running Awassi sheep to a Merino flock and Mr McBride said they hoped to increase the Merino ewe base during spring.

Mr McBride said they were fortunate to have retained nearly all 13 staff at Telopea Downs and are committed to using local suppliers in Kaniva, Vic, and Bordertown.

“We want to preserve our local towns as much as we can,” he said.

He said he had always been pro-Australian investment but did not believe foreign investment in Australian agriculture was “something to be feared”.

“Everywhere where you look they spend money into agriculture and they leave it here,” he said.

Astute investor shows strong confidence in ag land

An exciting strategic move from an astute investor with a multi-generational outlook is how Elders real estate general manager Tom Russo sees the sale of the Telopea Downs aggregation to AJ&PA McBride.

“It is wonderful to see a highly-respected Australian family business acquire the aggregation in what is a truly visionary move that reflects the ever-growing confidence in Australian primary production,” he said.

Mr Russo who brokered the deal said the “extraordinary run” of lamb and wool prices was translating into strong demand for livestock properties, especially those with economies of scale.

The major sale comes after Hassad Australia sold its 3260ha Glendale aggregation in the Mid North and 4458ha Ungarra aggregation for about $42 million in November last year.

At the time the company said it was divesting some of Australian farming land to make further investments in lamb and grain marketing. 

Stock Journal understands Hassad’s 2648ha Cummins aggregation which was also offered but did not find a buyer at the time may be under contract.

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