A country field in Clare, South Australia

Mixed Farming Aggregation Saltbush Ag Sells for $33 Million Amid Strong National Rural Sales

Almost 3,000 hectares of mixed cropping and grazing land has earned the Handbury family $33 million after it was split into six parcels and purchased by local farming families.

Located in the Mid-North region of South Australia, Saltbush Ag had been owned by Paddy Handbury, the nephew of Rupert Murdoch, for the past 27 years. The aggregation included two main homesteads and an additional five houses, shearing sheds, extensive shedding, irrigation infrastructure and grain storage facilities.

Spanning the districts of Booborowie and Leighton, the region is renowned for reliable rainfall and fertile soils, offering local farmers the ability to profit from the mix of crops, pulses, hay and prime lamb production, and ease of market access.

While on the market, there were more than 100 inquiries for Saltbush Ag, including one potential purchaser interested in the aggregation.

“In the end, it was multi-generational farming families from the mid-north region [that] purchased them individually,” said Ray White agent Geoff Schell.

“Two of the buyers are quite large family businesses, and three are small-to-medium family businesses,” he added.

The move to disperse the aggregation was driven by a desire to concentrate business operations in the state’s South-East region.

“When times are good, good properties come up and we have just bought three cracking properties closer to home, so we’re keen for our son Jack and his family to move down south while his family is still young,” Mr Handbury said.

Saltbush Ag has been the primary focus of the Handbury’s farming enterprises since it sold Collinsville Stud in 2014 in a sale to Adelaide businessman George Millington.

Handbury Asset Holdings own 180 hectares at Lucindale, in addition to Chessington, a 668 hectare grazing property acquired for $13.7 million. The family also owns the 215,000 hectare station Arcoona near Woomera in the South Australian outback.

Rural Sales Still Going Strong

Sales of rural land continue to shine with strong interest and record prices achieved in many parts of the country.

Selling for $10 million more than the initial valuation, a 8,500 hectare Western Australian farm has sold to the Canadian-backed Victorian-based Excel Farms for a record $100 million. The previous WA record was set in 2020 when 22,000 hectares at Mingenew sold for $97 million.

The median price for cropping land per hectare now sits at around $4700 in Western Australia, more than double its value in 2018. A significant factor in the increase in value has been the demand from interstate farmers keep to capitalise on WA’s comparatively cheaper land.

Another recent sale of note is the transaction of Gundaline – one of Australia’s largest irrigated farming operations. Located in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, the property has been sold to Chinese textile firm Zhejiang Sunrise Garment Group for $120 million.

Focus will now be on the next cohort of rural sales with a 3,026 hectare property in Walcha New South Wales recently put on the market.

The breeding and fattening operation – Emu Creek – has been owned by the same family for the last 155 years and is expected to sell for around $35 million.

Sources: Grain Central, Commercial Real Estate, ABC, Beef Central.

Get the latest industry updates

Stay up to date on ag industry news, HR resources and available positions.