Laguna sells Woorndoo in heady western Vic market

Liz Wells, December 1, 2021

The Woorndoo Aggregation has sold to two separate entities with existing operations in Victoria. Photo: Elders and LAWD

THE Woorndoo Aggregation has been split up and sold to two separate entities which already have considerable holdings in western Victoria.

The sale grossed around $70 million for vendor Laguna Bay Pastoral Company. It, and agents for the sale LAWD and Elders Real Estate, declined to comment further on the sale of 3355 hectares in total.

Other media outlets have reported the Shippen family purchased one of the hubs and Clinton Ross, a farmer based near Avoca, roughly 80 kilometres north-east of Woorndoo, the other two.

The Shippens’ Banyandah Pastoral Company is based at Moulamein in south-west New South Wales, and in 2018 bought Mount Fyans at Dundonnell, roughly 10km south-east of Woorndoo.

Versatility builds demand

Elders Real Estate agent Rob Rickard has worked in the region’s property market since the 1990s, and said prices for agricultural land in the region have doubled in the past 12-18 months.

The Woorndoo sale at roughly $20,000/ha is testament to that, and represents the value of consistently high-yielding cropping country, and reliable rainfall.

Mr Rickard said the introduction of raised beds allow crops to better weather wet winters, and yields of 6-8 tonnes per hectare of cereals, canola and faba beans are now achievable.

“The country that has traditionally been sheep country is mainly basalt clay loams, and it’s being converted to high-yielding cropping country,” he said.

Woorndoo is one such property where raised beds have been used with great success to allow continuous cropping, but Mr Rickard said many other properties in the district still run sheep or cattle in rotation with crops.

Grazing changes

Excluding the Woorndoo sale, Mr Rickard said the Elders Camperdown agency has sold more than 4000ha off market in the past month alone, including the 1050ha Karrara Farms at Ecklin South.

The agency sold an aggregation of dairying country, owned by the Logan and Watson families, to Excel Farms which is expanding its portfolio throughout western Victoria.

“It’s probably the largest aggregation south of the Princes Highway I’ve sold in 30 years,” Mr Rickard said.

Listings sold recently include a 540ha block on the Laen-Cope Road, a joint listing with Elders Warracknabeal, which sold to a local family looking to expand its existing operation.

The vendor was a family based in south-west Victoria who wished to consolidate and purchased additional country closer to home.

Mr Rickard said property values in the wider region rose 400 per cent between 2001 and 2007, and have surged again since early last year.

He said the bright picture for livestock and cropping was spreading to dairy after some tough years.

“In the past 18 months to two years we’ve sold a lot of dairy country to beef and sheep operations and, in some cases, cropping.

“Those that have stuck with dairy will be rewarded.”

Mr Rickard said confidence from the next generation in agriculture, as well as strong commodity prices, was contributing to the sector’s rosy outlook.

“The greatest thing I’ve experienced is young people coming on to the land.

“They’re bringing new ideas they’ve picked up through secondary and tertiary education, and from working away from the district.”

Woorndoo follows Banongill

Laguna Bay has been a large-scale mixed-farming operator in western Victoria on country bought by the Laguna Bay Agricultural Fund.

The US-based Washington State Investment Board, which holds retirement capital for the state’s public servants, is a cornerstone investor.

Laguna’s other investments in Australia have included dairying and permanent plantings in almonds, olives and winegrapes.

The fund bought Banongill Station, a 6880ha property near Skipton, in 2016, and added an adjoining 1320ha property to it prior to selling the 8200ha holding to a consortium of local farming families.


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