Return to solid seasons sparks demand for Upper Namoi farms

Liz Wells April 7, 2021

Warilea is for sale by EOI closing 29 April. Photo: Nutrien Harcourts Narrabri

THREE solid seasons on the trot are rebuilding faith in the Upper Namoi region as a profitable double-cropping region now that recent rain is pushing the New South Wales drought to the back of the market’s mind.

Agents report that locally driven demand is far exceeding supply of farms coming on to the market in the wider Gunnedah region, and the irony exists that some potential vendors during the drought years of 2017-19 are now on the hunt for more country.

Nutrien Harcourts agent James Thomas said strong commodity prices and low interest rates were prompting expansions within the region.

“There’s been more demand than supply since the season broke in February last year,” Mr Thomas said.

“There’s good inquiry from various regions on dryland and irrigation, and Interest rates are having a big impact.

“People who were leasing additional country are now buying because it’s a cheaper option, and they’re buying capital.

“These are great conditions for ag.”

Mr Thomas said throughout the drought, properties which sold were generally “top-tier ag assets”, and allowed the region’s farmland to hold its value.

“The value of these properties didn’t drop, but the volume of properties sold did.”

He said cash flow has been “the missing ingredient” for prospective buyers, and following a good winter crop last year, and a handy summer one now being harvested, the appetite for expansion was high now that prospects for the 2021 winter crop look rosy on the back of early rain.

Mr Thomas said some more properties may come forward once the winter crop gets planted.

While sheep are making a low-key return to the region, cattle are a mainstay of the region’s mixed farms which sit alongside continuous cropping operations.

Livestock in the mix

Ray White Rural Gunnedah agent Tim Walsh said recent rain which had assured a widespread winter planting, as well as phenomenal and continuing strength in the cattle market, was fuelling demand for the region’s farms.

“What we’ve found is people have gone from potential sellers in 2019 to potential buyers in 2021.

“There isn’t much listed; we’re down to one rural property listing.”

Mr Walsh said the agency had sold four farming property in the $1 million plus range since October, all to locals.

“If they’re priced right and if they’re high quality, they’re selling pretty well.”

He said low interest rates, coupled with 18 months of reasonable weather following the drought, had prompted the turnaround.

The agency recently sold Plain View for $1.8M after passing it in at auction for $1.62M 18 months prior.

“The vendor wanted $1.8M, and they ended up getting it.

“Places that looked like they were overpriced have had the market catch up to them now.”

Elders Gunnedah agent Ian McArthur has reported the sale of Glendalough, a 583-hectare farm offered by a deceased estate which listed at $1.69M, and has sold to a local.

Located 29 kilometres north-west of Gunnedah, Glendalough includes 267ha of cultivation and 244ha of open grazing with some cultivation potential.

The Gunnedah mixed-farming property Plain View sold last month. Photo: Ray White Rural Gunnedah

Glendalough fits the bill for mixed farming of livestock and winter cereals, with soils running from self-mulching black and chocolate basalt to red loams.

“If you want to expand, there’s never been a better time,” Mr McArthur said.

“I’m starting to get calls from people down south that can’t afford to expand where they are, and are even considering relocating.

“I think our area is undervalued at the moment.”

He said sheep were now part of the enterprise mix on some of the region’s farms after declining in numbers during the 1990s, and this was boosting the region’s appeal to southern mixed farmers.

“There are a few sheep filtering back into the district.”

However, listings to offer remain limited.

“I thought after the drought we’d see a lot more places come on to the market, but people are staying on.”

Varied listings

Listings include the Warilea Aggregation, a Nutrien Harcourts Narrabri listing.

Located atop one of NSW’s most reliable alluvial aquifers, Warilea covers 1586ha, and sits 26km south-east of Narrabri.

Warilea is almost fully developed to flood irrigation using modern and efficient delivery systems, and its water comes from a 3375ML high-security groundwater licence, and a 3600ML unregulated entitlement.

The aggregation is being offered for sale by Jack and Jacqui Warnock , who bought Warilea in 1984 and have transformed it from grazing country.

Warilea produces cotton and corn over summer with average yields of 11 bales/ha and 14t/ha respectively.

Winter crops are bread wheat, canola, faba beans and mungbeans.

Warilea’s improvements include a 2320t Kotzur complex including silos equipped with temperature and moisture-monitoring and drying systems ideal for corn.

Mr Thomas said with large-scale pecan farms in the Gwydir Valley to the north and citrus operations in Gunnedah to the south, Warilea was well positioned for a long-term land-use change to incorporate horticulture.

“With strengthening water markets and a strong demand for high quality agricultural assets the family has decided to list the property for sale by expressions of interest closing 29 April,” Mr Thomas said.

At Mullaley, Tourable is now listed with Elders Gunnedah.

Tourable has good improvements including cattle yards, double frontage to Cox’s Creek, and two water-access licences which total 651ML.

They enable crops to be grown under two centre pivots which jointly cover 124ha, and on 52ha of developed flood irrigation.

South of Gunnedah and 4 kilometres north of Caroona is Burwood, ad 817ha holding listed for $4.99M with James Bradford Rural.

Burwood sits on the Liverpool Plains, and has around 750 arable hectares comprising self-mulching basalt and sloping chocolate running to red country, with the balance being natural grazing.

With an average annual rainfall of 680 millimetres, Burwood can carry 120 cows and calves in addition to farming.

It has an 8km frontage to the Mooki River, is well watered with bores, and comes with good improvements.

Burwood at Caroona is listed for $4.99M. Photo: James Bradford Rural

Also on the market is Mount Nombi.

Priced at $8.5M, this LAWD listing is located 22km south-west of Mullaley and 60km south-west of Gunnedah on the western edge of the Liverpool Plains.

The 1589ha Mount Nombi is a cattle and sheep-breeding and finishing enterprise, and can carry 400 self-replacing cows.

It includes 610ha suited to winter and summer dryland cropping.

The property has considerable scope for expansion of arable area and pasture improvement.



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