KING Island’s largest beef farming enterprise has pulled off one of the richest agricultural land buys in Tasmania.
TRT Pastoral Group has bought some of the farms located on the historic Woolnorth property in the far north-west for an estimated $120 million.
TRT Pastoral Group, operated by Tasmanian-born Tim Roberts-Thomson and his children Madeleine and James, bought almost a third of Van Dairy Ltd’s landholdings in Circular Head.
The deal, exclusively predicted by Tasmanian Country two weeks ago, was settled on Monday.
It is understood that VDL owner Xianfeng Lu will retain a 10,000ha portion of the aggregation. 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.
The iconic Woolnorth property is one of the oldest properties in Australia.
In it’s almost 200-year history since European settlement, Woolnorth has only ever been owned by offshore parties.
The Woolnorth aggregation in the far North-West comprises three properties.
The aggregation when fully stocked will hold 7000 Angus breeders with a total carrying capacity of 100,000 DSE.
The land area totals about 6000ha of some of the most productive grazing land in Australia.
Mr Roberts-Thomson, who grew up at Wynyard, said the purchase is an exciting addition to the TRT Pastoral Group portfolio.
TRT runs an eight-farm aggregation of more than 9300ha on King Island.
This purchase will see the TRT Angus herd reach 17,000 breeders across three sites.
“To get this type of scale in North-West Tasmania is just unheard of. It’s a real coup.” Mr Roberts-Thomson said.
“Like King Island, Woolnorth offers large-scale grazing in a reliable climatic area that ensures consistent, high quality pasture growth.”
Van Dairy produces about 10 per cent of the state’s milk production.
The deal includes farms located on the historic Woolnorth property, the 900ha Harcus dairy, along with part of the Gums dairy and the Heifer Unit near Smithton.
Mr Roberts-Thomson said: “It is deeply humbling for our family, and we look forward to operating the farms sustainably and productively,” he said.
“Our commitment is to ensure that the Woolnorth properties continue their long-standing and highly regarded position as an iconic symbol of Tasmanian quality. “Tasmania’s brand has real value when it comes to the provenance of food.
The purchase gives us scale to our farming with quality pasture, rainfall, and temperate climate.
“This acquisition fits in well with our current land holdings on King Island and Mansfield, Victoria.
“These regions provide consistent climatic conditions for our grass-fed cattle operation aligning to our regenerative agriculture principles.
“Our plan for this new property is to expand the TRT Angus cow herd over the next five years, with high-quality, 100 per cent grass-fed Angus cattle.”
TRT’s operations include the seven-property, 2200ha Howquadale Station at Mansfield in Victoria as well as the eight-farm aggregation of more than 9300ha on King Island.
The King Island country includes 6785ha TRT purchased from the Sustainable Agriculture Fund for $45 million in 2017.
Van Dairy Limited managing director Xianfeng Lu said he was committed to the future development of the property and dealings in landholdings were a part of normal business activities.
In line with Mr Lu’s vision for the farm, sale funds will be re-invested into the broader property.
“My goal is to build a high quality international dairy company and I remain committed to this outcome,” Mr Lu said.
Van Dairy also has plans for a packaging factory at Somerset and a powdered milk factory on Woolnorth.
The original VDL Company was headquartered in London and played a key role in European settlement of the North-West in the early 1800s.
The British relinquished ownership in 1993 when it became part of New Zealand company Tasman Agriculture Limited.