EVEN in tough seasons the loamy Namoi River soils east of Narrabri have an impressive capacity to grow sleek, productive cattle, so it's no surprise the name Wallah has been closely linked with some game-changing trends in the beef industry.
The 2400 hectare property is today best known as the base for the Manchee family's 72-year-old Yamburgan Shorthorn stud.
Yamburgan holds the record for Australia's biggest grossing Shorthorn stud bull sale after breaking the $1 million mark when its 2017 on-property auction averaged $10,354 for 119 lots.
Wallah is also the birthplace of the new Durham Tropical breed - a Shorthorn-Santa Gertrudis composite delivering British breed meat marbling and fertility characteristics in harder, hotter environments where Bos indicus cattle normally dominate.
By using DNA technology, muscle scanning and careful genetics selection, the Manchees' Durham Tropicals are posting marble scores within 0.5 points of British breed scans in northern and western climes.
The family has sold Tropical bulls and semen as far afield as Wanaaring in western NSW, Alice Springs and Australian Agricultural Company properties in North Queensland, with semen also exported to Kazakhstan and Brazil.
Wallah was also the base for the Willgaroon Santa Gertrudis stud, which dispersed in 2009 to make way for the Tropicals, and last century was home to one of the Angus breed's best known NSW studs.
In the 1930s, '40s and '50s Walla also hosted a Merino stud.
Originally called Tarairo, the property has deep ties to northern NSW's grazing industry pioneers, starting with the father figure of the Munro clan in the Hunter Valley and North West, teenage convict turned business success story, Alexander Munro, who bought the 6500ha grazing lease in 1848.
Munro sold half in 1854 to distant cousin, Donald, one of many family members he helped migrate from Black Isle peninsula in northern Scotland who had repaid his fare by working on the property.
Subsequent descendants became foundation figures behind cattle stud names such as Moree's Weebollabolla Shorthorns and Booroomooka Angus at Keera, Bingara.
Wallah and its nearby 300ha cropping annex, Glen Isle, share 15 kilometres of Namoi River frontage near the Nandewar Ranges.
About 800ha at Wallah is cropped, too, including 40ha under centre pivot irrigation primarily growing corn or sorghum silage.
Winter cereals, pulses and summer crops, including this year's first ever 200ha of dryland cotton, contribute to the cash flow and feed reserves required for an expanding beef business under the Manchee Agriculture banner.
"It's great country for intensive beef genetic production," said John Manchee, who runs the family partnership with his wife, Liz, and children Nick, 19, and Sophia, 16.
John and Liz took the helm in 1994 from John's parents, Lionel and Rania, who still live at Wallah.
They began on-p roperty bull sales the following year, and a foray into Santa Gertrudis breeding.
Also on their agenda was a keen approach to maximise the use of a raft of emerging herd recording data options for genetic selection and cattle growth goals.
"The beef industry's made good progress incorporating genetics data into breeding programs, but we've got a long way to go compared to pork or chicken, so we must make the most of the way we monitor and utilise our top genetic traits," Mr Manchee said.
Manchee Agriculture's footprint recently broadened outside the Namoi Valley, leasing a 6500ha central NSW grazing property, Wandoona, east of Mudgee, and last year's purchase of 4000ha Windamere near Glen Morgan on Queensland's western Darling Downs.
Windamere includes about 2000ha of cropping land.
"I think it's vital to have production diversity if you can," he said.
"We've managed to develop our activities over three regions with the aim of providing some insurance against difficult seasonal conditions.
"You can probably expect about one in every four seasons won't work out so well, but now we have room to hopefully keep building our numbers even if conditions aren't ideal in some areas."
About 700 Shorthorn breeders will soon move south to the 750-millimetre annual rainfall zone at Mudgee, taking the stocking pressure off, Wallah.
The Narrabri property remains the base for Yamburgan bulls, weaners and grain cropping and fodder production.
With extra room at Mudgee and Glen Morgan, the plan is to lift registered and commercial cow numbers to about 1100 and Durham Tropicals to 700 within a few years, taking total Manchee weaning numbers from about 1100 to 1800.
The new southern Queensland property, with a rainfall average similar to Wallah's 600mm, is already home to a 400-strong Durham Tropical breeder herd.
Also at Windamere are the family's Shorthorn steers - all destined for the popular JBS Australia's Thousand Guineas beef brand sold to restaurants and hotels in Australia and Asia.
After weaning into a starter feedlot program at Wallah, for up to three months, steers are moved north of the border to graze before being sold at about 400 kilograms into a 120-day feeding program at JBS's Beef City feedlot.
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The weaner feeding initiative began to help the young cattle get a good start without their mothers, particularly in drier years.
However, it has also helped the steers later in life.
"Feeding early seems to have built up their resistance to potential respiratory or flu issues when they go into Prime City," Mr Manchee said.
"They thrive - very few of our cattle are pulled off feed because of respiratory problems."
More weaner pens are planned to be built at Windamere as the herd expands.
Mr Manchee is enthusiastic about JBS' Thousand Guineas Shorthorn beef brand and keen to back it with as much supply as his business can muster to assist the year-round JBS commitment to restaurants and export buyers.
And that's despite the family previously looking at establishing its own a Yamburgan retail band to add value to farm returns.
"I'm not ruling out our own brand as a future option, but Thousand Guineas has been really well accepted in the market and is a real shot in the arm for Shorthorn breeders," he said.
"It's delivering a deeper, stronger flavoured meat, and providing a real point of difference for Shorthorn beef in the marketplace.
"JBS wants more production through its plants."
According to JBS business development officer, Denis Conroy, the Shorthorn loin, rump and rib beef cuts marbled well and cooked up to consistently produce a tender, unique flavour winning acclaim for the Thousand Guineas brand.
JBS processes about 250 Shorthorn cattle a week for the brand.
Yamburgan cattle boast plenty of meat quality credibility of their own, winning Beef Australia's champion carcase title in 2015 and Sydney Royal Show export and domestic market beef challenge titles four times from 2012 to 2017.
Mr Manchee has focused on lifting his herd's consistency of the marbling and meat cover by closely tracking the genetic characteristics of their own cattle and sires they introduce to the stud herd.
"Eye muscle area scores, carcase weights and marbling ability have really moved up since we started closely monitoring the data from the Shorthorn society's Durham research project."
All bull, heifer and steer carcase data is submitted to Breedplan.
Meanwhile, a small herd retained after the Wilgaroon Santa Gertrudis dispersal, provided the foundation for the Durham Tropical breed - initially a 50-50 mix of Shorthorn and Santa genetics stabilised to produce 82pc solid red Shorthorn progeny.
Tropicals enjoy the heat tolerance and carcase yield characteristics of Bos indicus cattle, combined with fertility, meat quality and fat cover of British breeds.
Hybrid vigor also lifts weaning weights by up to 20pc against their Shorthorn peers.
The Manchee family, originally from Yamburgan at Dirranbandi in South West Queensland, became part of Wallah's beef history when Lionel and Rania Manchee took over what had been her family's home base in 1969.
Mr Manchee brought with him the 1947-founded Yamburgan Shorthorn stud, effectively displacing Wallah's Angus stud which was dispersed by his retiring father-in-law, Lin Sanderson, a former Angus Society president.
The family connection to Wallah had begun in 1924, when a company formed by H. Talbot Sanderson and refrigerated meat export pioneer, Sir William Angliss, added the Narrabri property to a portfolio stretching into Queensland.
H.T. Sanderson later acquired Wallah from Angliss and fellow shareholders, and with son, Lin, introduced Merino sheep and imported three New Zealand cows to start the Angus stud.
When 1955's big floods drowned many of the Sanderson's stud rams, wool production was scaled back and replaced entirely by cattle after 1957.