Only three families have held “Wolkara” on the Barwon River since the mid-1880s, and one of those for just four years. That was Edmund Jowett, the Yorkshire-born businessman/pastoralist who in his heyday early last century held more than 40 properties across NSW and Queensland.
But for the other 130-odd years, interrupted only by the brief Jowett tenure, “Wolkara” was held by successive generations of just two Brewarrina families – the Fennells and the Loughnans. And now the present owners, Bill and Barbara Loughnan, are ready to retire and they have listed the long-held grazing property for sale with Hartin Schute Bell, Narromine, and Schute Bell, Brewarrina.
“Wolkara” will go to auction in Brewarrina on October 10 with bidding expected in a range upwards of $325 a hectare ($130/ac). Comprising 8507ha (21,021ac), “Wolkara” is situated 22 kilometres west of Brewarrina where it straddles the Kamilaroi Highway linking Brewarrina and Bourke.
More importantly, the property fronts the Barwon River for eight kilometres and comprises mostly rich, black, self-mulching floodplain soils.The country is described as open grazing, lightly timbered by coolabah, black box and river gum, with a varied pasture base of native grasses, edible bush and seasonal herbages.
Bill Loughnan is the third generation of his family to occupy “Wolkara”. It was his grandfather, J.R. (‘Jos’) Loughnan who bought the property from Jowett, in 1928. Irish-born Jos Loughnan with his older brother Harry had earlier settled on “Woolerbilla” at Dirranbandi and owned another Queensland property near Mitchell, and later “Tara” at Goodooga. When he died in 1941, his four sons drew from a hat to decide who would take which property, and it was Bill’s father, R.K. (‘Jack’) Loughnan, who ended up with “Wolkara”. Prior to Jowett buying “Wolkara” in 1924, it was held by three generations of the Fennell family (still represented in the district), initially as a much larger property, shearing up to 20,000 sheep in a woolshed with 28 machine stands. Today “Wolkara” has an estimated carrying capacity of 4000 DSE and is ideally suited to woolgrowing and seasonal fattening of cattle.
Following a flood in 1974 that left a sea of herbage on “Wolkara”, the Loughnans took on 600 agistment steers which within three months they were turning off as prime bullocks dressing 320 kilograms. Not that it was anything new for “Wolkara” to be a source of prime stock. A century ago the Fennells were topping Homebush with bullocks fetching 27 pounds (about $2500 in today’s money). Right now the property is lightly stocked with 1500 lambing ewes and about 100 young cattle, allowing the country to pick up following useful July rains. Average rainfall is 355mm and the property is watered by a reticulation system from the river piping to seven paddock troughs, plus dams. Working improvements include a six-stand shearing shed with steel sheep yards and quarters, timber and steel cattle yards, steel machinery shed, workshop, stables and silos.
By PETER AUSTIN