By Gretel Sneath
While debate continues about foreign ownership of some of the nation’s agricultural assets, a local station family is quietly creating a new pastoral empire in the South Australian desert.
Three generations of Litchfields have worked Mundowdna and Wilpoorinna Stations on the bottom of the Birdsville Track for the past 50 years, and now, they have more than doubled their existing landholding by purchasing the property next door.
Adam and Kate Litchfield have spent the past few weeks moving their young family across to historic Mount Lyndhurst Station, located 74 kilometres north-east of Leigh Creek along the Strzelecki Track.
After surviving for years with a diesel-powered generator, they are relishing new ‘luxuries’ like mains electricity.
“I thank my lucky stars every morning when I now wake up and simply flick on a switch,” Adam smiles.
Once a part of the massive Beltana Pastoral Company operated by the Barr Smith family, the 350,000-hectare property shares 980km of boundary fence with the Litchfields’ existing landholdings between Marree and Lyndhurst – but after recent heavy rains, that hasn’t made access any easier.
“It’s about 90 minutes’ drive from our old place when it’s dry, but every week it seems to rain and because it’s so wet and damp, you only need four or five millimetres and the roads shut again,” Adam says.
No-one in the family is complaining about all of the water lying around, for it has been five good years of rainfall that made the bold $7 million purchase possible in the first place; prior to that, the area was in severe drought and all stock had to be either sold or agisted.
“The country is looking amazing, and it’s going to be unreal in spring when it warms up a bit and all the wildflowers come out,” Adam says.
The family’s organic lamb and beef business is thriving in the midst of the favourable weather conditions, with production also expected to double as a result of the latest land acquisition.
The combined properties, which are also run by Adam’s parents, Gordon and Lyn Litchfield, and his uncle Peter Litchfield and wife Janine, will be capable of handling more than 30,000 sheep and 6000 cattle.
“The stock is trucked to Murray Bridge for processing and export, and organic-certified meat is in really strong demand in places like the United States, so we are getting a premium price which is fantastic as we have a few additional expenses now,” Adam smiles.
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