In a show of confidence in the wool industry, Moulamein, NSW, based woolgrowers Ian and Camilla Shippen have bought large-scale livestock property, Mount Fyans at Dundonnell.
The Shippens purchased the 5900-hectare property in a deal worth approximately $37 million from Harmony Agriculture and Food Company (HAAFCO), which bought the property in 2016.
Mr Shippen said they had first looked at Mt Fyans when it was on the market previously, looking for a place to achieve a long-held desire to establish a large-scale wool operation.
This time, the timing was right and the Shippens expect to have their own sheep on the property within days.
The plan was to establish a “simple woolgrowing operation”, taking Merino wether lambs from their NSW properties to Mt Fyans and running them for three to four years and then selling them.
While it is planned to be a woolgrowing, wether operation, they will also take opportunities to trade some cattle.
Mr Shippen said it was an exciting time, but there was a lot of work and a whole new learning curve ahead.
“It gives us diversity within the industry with prime lambs at Wagga Wagga, NSW, where our manager Derk Meurs has done an outstanding job of making the property a profitable sheep operation, we’ve got our breeding operation at Moulamein and now woolgrowing down south,” he said.
After years of frustration of seeing their high quality Merino wether lambs being sold for slaughter, this operation provided the chance, for the first time, to run Merino wethers as wool cutters for up to four years.
Mr Shippen said there were a lot of challenges in running Merino wethers in high rainfall areas.
However he backed the breeding and selection, overseen by wool classer Bob Simson for 20 years, in getting the wool right to meet the challenges and handle the conditions.
“All our surplus sale ewes go to high rainfall places and it’s up to our classing to make sure we don’t have too much condition in our wool so it can handle the higher rainfall,” he said.
As far as feet go, he said they would mitigate that with management.
Mr Simson had been invaluable in the operation.
“He is the difference between our sheep cutting 7.5 kilograms not 5kg and getting 110 per cent lambing not 80pc,” he said.
Mr Shippen said they were looking at a cell grazing rotation style operation and were looking to hire a manager with those skills.
“We are trying to make it a woolgrowing factory,” he said.
“I have a lot of faith in the wool industry and we have been growing wool for a while and we know how to do it.
“You’ve also got to enjoy what you are doing.”
The business is very much a family operation, with children Will, Emma and James all keen to come back into the business.
The purchase of Mt Fyans was another part of the succession plan to ensure there was sufficient scale in the operation to support all family members.
The new property gives the business three hubs – Wagga Wagga, Moulamein and Mt Fyans.
Mr Shippen said the aim was to run 40,000 wethers or the equivalent in cattle.
“It’s about getting the right manager to do that,” he said.
“My expertise is the pastoral country of NSW, not the high rainfall country so we need to employ the right people.”
The Shippens are aiming to have the operation at its capacity in four years.
As sheep numbers grow so will the pasture improvement program to match.
The new property also provided an ability to make capacity at Moulamein by shifting livestock south if needed.
With succession in mind, the Shippens and Mr Simson have been working with the children to pass on their knowledge and experiences.
“It takes a lot of time looking at sheep and wool,” he said.
“I always say that you can’t buy a computer program for it, there isn’t one.”
Mr Shippen praised the work of Brett Pekin, BLP Agribusiness, Swan Hill, who had been instrumental in the negotiations for the the sale of the property.
Agents were Robert Claffey, Kerr & Co Town & Country Real Estate, and Elders Real Estate, Hamilton.