Aussie move on VDL

FOR the first time in almost 200 years a large area of what was Van Diemens Land Company in the far North West will be Australian owned.

Tasmanian Country can exclusively reveal one of Australia’s largest dairy farms, Van Dairy Ltd in Circular Head, has sold part of its landholdings to an Australian pastoral group with strong links to Tasmania.

Van Dairy, which produces about 10 per cent of the state’s milk, is believed to have sold part of its 17,000 hectares on the Woolnorth estate to the new buyer.

The purchase is a large part of the Woolnorth aggregation farmland and the buyer is understood to be eager to maintain the farm’s highly regarded position as a symbol of Tasmanian quality.

Woolnorth offers large-scale grazing in a reliable climatic area that ensures consistent, high-quality pasture growth.

The area is likely to be converted back to beef farming, allowing for a grass-fed cattle herd.

Annual rainfall in the region is about 1000mm and the average annual temperature about 12 degrees Van Dairy owner and managing director Xianfeng Lu, who for the past two years has lived at the old VDL manager’s residence at Woolnorth, declined to comment on the sale.

Earlier this year, Mr Lu said he had refused offers to buy the entire estate and remained committed to Van Diary.

He said Van Dairy remained committed to creating a world-leading, environmental best-practice and vertically integrated dairy operation which blended seamlessly with the Tasmanian brand.
“I will not sell the entire VDL farms,” Mr Lu said.
“We want to make VDL a well-known international brand in the Tasmanian organic dairy industry.”

It is understood settlement of the sale should be completed within the next two weeks.

Dairy cattle will be shifted from the area, allowing for the new buyer to expand the beef cow herd. In August Van Dairy earmarked two farms for sale, including the 900-hectare Harcus Dairy, due to operational requirements.

For many Van Dairy is an enigma. Mr Lu bought VDL from New Zealand interests in March 2016 and changed its name to Van Dairy, however, it has gone through challenging times.

Last year Van Dairy reduced its cow herd by 9200 cows to now milk 11,500 cows on 17,000 hectares.

Van Dairy produced 85 million litres of milk and 6.8 million of milk solids last year, which is almost 10 per cent of the state’s record 961 million litres of milk production.

The company generated more than $48 million in revenue.

The original VDL Company was headquartered in London and played a key role in European settlement of the North West in the early 1800s.

Since then, the VDL has not been Australian owned.

The British relinquished ownership of property in 1993 when it became part of the New Zealand publicly-listed company Tasman Agriculture Limited, before changing hands again and being run by the New Plymouth District Council in New Zealand in 2004.

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