MIXED FARMS on the plains of central New South Wales are selling like hotcakes in the post-drought phase as southerners and locals compete for area to expand their operations.
Now that the red country has turned green, agents report strong interest for farms coming from cropping districts of Victoria and the southern slopes of NSW, but local demand appears to be the most buoyant of all.
Agents say listings are spending little to no time on the market, and nearly all places being auctioned are selling under the hammer, or soon after.
The latest is Murrumbah, a 993-hectare mixed farm 10 kilometres south-west of Trangie which was passed in at auction on Friday for $3.6 million, or $3625/ha.
It sold soon after to the losing bidder, a local, for an undisclosed sum, for vendors Stephen and Louise Ferrari.
Elders Real Estate Dubbo agent Richard Gemmell handled the sale, and said Murrumbah attracted interest from mostly southern and local parties.
Good improvements make it suited to sheep and cattle, and 95 per cent of its grey self-mulching soils and deep red loams are arable.
Mr Gemmell said the phenomenal turnaround in the season, coupled with the country’s intrinsic mixed-farming value, has sparked renewed interest in the country.
“When you look throughout NSW, the central west has suffered as badly as anywhere else, and it has recovered very very well.
“Now that that’s happened, there’s plenty of interest in land, and people wanting to invest.”
Mr Gemmell said values were firming for the age-old reason: “There are more buyers than sellers in the market.”
Value in Tottenham
In a welcome turnaround from 2017-19 when drought stymied the growing of dryland crops, the inner plains of central NSW have already this year exceeded their annual average rainfall of roughly 425-475 millimetres.
This is below the most expensive cropping country in NSW which sits in the 550-650mm annual average rainfall band and, with the exception of drought years, often produces wheat crops with yields of 5-6 tonnes per hectare.
Delta Agribusiness Trangie-based agent Sam Lawler said parts of the Tottenham, Trangie and Nevertire district might have an average wheat yield of 1.6t/ha, but this year some properties were on track to get 6t/ha, and more for barley, with a kind finish to the season.
“I think Tottenham is some of the cheapest farming country in NSW,” Mr Lawler said.
“There’s plenty of country in NSW that might be 10 times the price, but I don’t know if it’s 10 times as good.”
Kurrajongdale covers 1251ha and sits 3km west of Tottenham, and 150km north-west of Parkes.
It recently sold at auction to a local interest through Delta Agribusiness on behalf of Richard and Paula Clegg for $1339/ha.
The property is 85-90pc arable with a vendor-estimated carrying capacity of 1200 ewes plus followers or cattle equivalent, and 280-320ha of cropping.
West of Nyngan, Gilgai at Hermidale was bought earlier this month by a family from Tullibigeal through Ray White Rural.
The 4235ha property sold for $543/ha; it has an arable area of 3440ha, and was last cropped in 2017.
Rainfall at Gilgai this year has included 375mm in March, which promoted a flush of native pasture growth.
Good fit for southerners
Elders Nyngan agent Wayne Judge said the most affordable mixed-farming country north of Nyngan had a starting price of around $550/ha and went up to about $750/ha.
“People from down south with higher-value country look up here and see those prices, and see the land as undervalued for what you can get out of it.”
For some investors whose home properties might be worth $5000-$6500/ha, the contrast is stark, particularly in today’s subdued lending environment, and in what are often tightly held areas.
“Their opportunities for buying adjoining blocks are limited down there.”
He said the region’s earlier harvest also fitted in well with southerners’ programs.
“We finish harvest a month before they do in places down near the Victorian border, so that works well for families who aren’t based here.”
He said returns from cropping rotations including barley, canola, chickpeas and wheat, as well as grazing and supplementary feeding sheep and cattle, all boded well for the region in its drought-recovery phase.
“The dry made people more aware of what they need to do to insulate themselves through these dry periods we’re always going to have.
“Younger people realise they need to start destocking early, and storing grain and making silage, or cutting crops for hay if they are going to be low yielding so you can feed them to your own stock.”
He said improved management practices had enabled the district to recover quickly once rain started to fall early this year.
Mullengudgery benchmark set
Grain Central understands the sale last month of Taralga at private auction to a local bidder has set a new record of more than $2000/ha, or roughly 10-15 per cent above recent district values, for comparable high-end properties.
It was sold by Ray White Rural Dubbo, and while agent Brian McAneney declined to comment on the result, he said it was sought after from within and beyond the district south-east of Nyngan.
“It was a very good sale, and set a new point in the Mullengudgery district.”
While rainfall, location, improvements, water and soil type all affect interest and values, Mr McAneney said the district overall was attracting plenty of interest.
“We’re getting a lot of southern interest for places in the Tottenham, Condobolin and Nyngan areas from Victoria and southern NSW, and our phone continues to ring,” Mr McAneney said.
“Except for wool at the moment, we’re looking at a perfect storm, with strong commodity prices, record low interest rates which means cheap money, and the seasonal outlook.”
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