Another Australian pastoral icon is in play, following the listing for sale last week of the renowned Channel Country station, “Clifton Hills”. Sprawling over 16,510 square kilometres of north-east South Australia, where it straddles the famous Birdsville Track, Clifton Hills Station is reputedly the second largest rural property in Australia. It is exceeded in size only by Anna Creek Station, formerly part of the Kidman empire until sold two years ago to adjoining landholder, the Williams Cattle Company.
Established in 1876, Clifton Hills Station is owned today by four South Australian families, whose connections to the property date back to the 1960s. It is held under four pastoral leases, two in the name of Clifton Hills, plus Goyder Lagoon and Kanowana, the latter previously held by Beltana Pastoral Company until 1914, when it was sold to the Brooks family who then owned “Clifton Hills”.
In 1947 the property achieved widespread fame when featured in the classic book, Flying Fox and Drifting Sand, by biologist Francis Ratcliffe, who visited “Clifton Hills” during an inland odyssey in the drought-racked 1930s.
Later, in 1960, the station became the first from the Channel Country to truck cattle by road to Adelaide, with a consignment of 53 bullocks to the fat markets at Gepps Cross. And now, to enable the present owners to focus on their other respective interests, “Clifton Hills” has been listed for sale by Colliers International and Rural Property and Livestock.
It is being offered by tender on a walk-in, walk-out basis, with its existing cattle herd of around 18,000 head plus plant and equipment. Offers on a land only basis are expected on the high side of $1550 a beast area, or around $34 million based on the station’s SA Pastoral Board-assessed maximum stocking rate of 21,500 head.
Co-selling agent Jesse Manuel from Colliers’ Adelaide office said the sheer scale of “Clifton Hills” would ensure keen interest in the property from local and overseas investors.
A major selling point of “Clifton Hills” is its nice balance of varied rangeland types and its exposure to Channel Country water flows. Country ranges from rain-responsive gibber plains to soft sandhills and river floodplains, resulting in a mixed grazing diet of seasonal herbage, grasses and edible bush.
All three Channel Country feeder streams – the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper - flow onto the property, the Diamantina reliably flooding some 10 per cent of the total area each year in a vast fattening basin.
According to Mr Manuel, the Diamantina is in flood right now, and delivering one of its annual natural irrigation events via the myriad channels that gave the region its name. Situated 195 kilometres south of Birdsville, the property is uniquely placed to supply cattle to either northern or southern markets, and the mix of breeds across the 18,000-head herd reflects the diversity of market options (all further enhanced by the herd’s “organic” status).
Improvements consist of the homestead, 24 sets of steel cattle yards with loading facilities, formed roadways, airstrips and six flowing bores.