Farm Online

Historic Wilga aggregation is on the market

FOOD BOWL: Hundreds of hectares are under cropping at the Wilga Aggregation. Photo: Supplied

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IAN and Louise MacCue aren't old folk, unable to run the farm, nor unwell.

And the farm, make that farms, are among the best in the country so it's not a matter of economic forces beyond the MacCues control, which has prompted change.

Yet they have moved on and have offered the prized 2116 hectare Wilga Aggregation, Bellata NSW, to the market through an Expression Of Interest sale activation running until July 6.

It's good country, some say God's own, tucked in between Moree and Narrabri on the Newell Highway where the rain falls often and the soils vary from alluvials on Wilga (1080ha) to rich, red loams on the "sister" block Woodlands (1036ha).

WATER WONDERLAND: The Wilga Aggregation has great access to plentiful water stocks. Photo: Supplied

They've been there for 46 years and Mr MacCue admits some heart strings were tugged when talk turned to a possible sale of a property his father-in-law bought in 1964 and has been their home since 1976.

A pragmatic Mr MacCue said it was time.

"This is about succession and another chapter in our lives," Mr MacCue said.

"It's been a very good property for us and we were very sad to leave when we did and that was about 18 months ago, but it was time.

"We thought it best to give our children their inheritance sooner than later and Louise and I have moved to Goondiwindi to be closer to family. In fact the furthest we are from any of our children is a four-hour drive and we want to travel.

"We had some travel plans in mind then COVID came and we've kept working but we would like to get to Tasmania and Western Australia this year and then maybe go overseas."

FEEDING TIME: The feedlot at Wilga is licenced to carry 5000 head of cattle. Photo: Supplied

If the business at Wilga has been anything, it's certainly been diverse.

It was originally a farm operation with a commercial cattle herd roaming paddocks while some parts were sown with wheat and sorghum.

When the 1980s rolled into view the variety of crops expanded to also include chick pea, grazing oats, summer grazing crops, cotton and lucerne.

But the commercial herd was trimming down and would eventually be replaced by a Santa Gertrudis stud and the enormously successful Tookey Creek Santa Gertrudis cattle blazed a ribbon winning trail through NSW and Queensland.

About this time the MacCues were thinking of building a feedlot to finish their weaners prior to sale and by 1992 it was operational.

"It was soon apparent that with the infrastructure required, the feedlot needed to be operated 12 months of the year," Mr MacCue said. "Once you have the infrastructure there, you have to utilise it so we started a long lasting relationship with BJA Stock and Station Agents securing contracts initially with Woolworths and then Coles.

"The first pen of cattle under contact commenced in 1994 and the feedlot has continued to expand to 3200 head capacity with a licence for 5000 head."

HARVEST TIME: There has never been a year when crops have not been harvest at Wilga. Photo: Supplied

BJA Stock and Station Agents' Bob Jamieson, who is handling the sale alongside Ben Hiscox, said the MacCue properties were an unsurpassed offering.

"It's a reliable, mixed operation which offers the next owner immediate and diversified income streams and has been immaculately managed," Mr Jamieson said.

"The country further lends itself to hay and silage production and additionally has not missed a winter crop since before 1975. Combined with the outstanding water supply that was unaffected by the recent record drought and 5000 head licensed feedlot, Wilga has proven itself drought-proof under the most trying circumstances.

"The offering, thanks to the MacCue family, will include an excellent 622ha wheat crop (and) considering the full profile of moisture and record prices this could be worth anything and could be the difference in someone inspecting, buying and having a headstart to an income stream."

The Wilga and Woodlands blocks are dotted with key infrastructure.

The Wilga homestead (circa 1965) is a five-bedroom, two-bathroom weatherboard house sitting in an envelope of mature trees and a low maintenance garden complete with an outdoor barbecue, new inground pool and expansive lawns. Four of the bedrooms have new carpeting and the home has been repainted internally and has air-conditioning.

The large, adjacent poultry yards, stables and milking bail deliver the quintessential family farm lifestyle.

Wilga cottage (1960) was renovated in 1990 and has a new kitchen, internal repaint, three carpeted bedrooms and polished floorboards elsewhere.

Woodlands' homestead (2009) is more modern and the extensive yard enclosing the five-bedroom, two-bathroom residence is fully-fenced and comprises established lawns, trees and adjacent poultry yards. The homestead is air-conditioned, has verandahs looking east, solar panels and an open-plan design.

There are sheds on both properties, a light aircraft strip on Woodlands often used by crop dusters and a Bellata gravel pit licensed with the Narrabri Shire Council.

PICTURE PERFECT: An aerial view clearly demonstrates the agricultural richness of the Wilga aggregation. Photo: Supplied

Five kilometres of Weston boundary fencing and 4.7kms of Weston internal fencing have been installed on Wilga and 3kms of Weston boundary fencing has been erected on Woodlands.

The MacCue's recognise the economic and environmental benefits of capturing soil carbon and have engaged Precision Pastures, of Armidale, to undertake an independent analysis of the carbon potential of the aggregation.

It's also central with the school bus pick-up to Narrabri 5kms from the Wilga gate and the pick-up for Bellata Primary is 1km away. Woodlands is 1km from the Manildra grain receival storage site, 8kms from the Gurley GrainCorp site and 10kms from the Bellata GrainCorp site. The school bus to Moree drives right past the gate.

More importantly though, is water.

Mr MacCue said the reliability of the aggregation stemmed from its water security courtesy of bores and dam sources, with 16-megalitre irrigation licence, 7ML stock-and-domestic licence and access to dams.

With rainfall, water entitlements and the feedlot operation, Wilga always delivered a consistent income, he added.

TIME TO SELL: Ian and Louise MacCue have decided the time is right to sell the Wilga Aggregation through an Expression of Interest campaign.

"During the three droughts that have occurred since we had the feedlot, we have always had an income because we were always in a position where we could offload cattle every week," he said.

"In the 46 years that Louise and I were there we never missed out on a harvest. We have had a few poor ones but we have always had one.

"It was a wonderful era for us and the same must be said of our relationship with Bob Jamieson and his team. We were his first client and might well be his last but the 32 years we've known one another has been truly rewarding."

For more details call Bob Jamieson (0428 669 313) or Ben Hiscox (0429 669 313).

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