The North Australian Pastoral Company Pty Limited (NAPCO) is a major player in Australia's cattle industry, managing approximately six million hectares of land throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Its origins date from 1877 when Queenslanders William Collins, William Forrest and Sir Thomas McIlwraith were joined by Englishmen John Warner and Sir William Ingram to form a partnership, The North Australian Pastoral Company. Descendants of the original partners are among the current shareholders.
In 1877, the NAPCO partners were the original lessees of Alexandria Downs Station in the Northern Territory (subsequently simply known as Alexandria), which remains central to the operation today. In the following year two properties Inkerman and Woodstock in the Burdekin district of Queensland were purchased, primarily to stock Alexandria. The Burdekin properties were sold at a good price for sugarcane in 1910.
The period from about 1910 to the late 1930s were difficult years: World War 1 followed by severe drought and a market downturn. For most of that time Alexandria was the company's only station, although the first Channel Country property, Marion Downs, was purchased in 1934. The acquisition in 1939 of two other Channel Country properties, Monkira and Coorabulka, served to establish more firmly NAPCO's style of operation breeding cattle on Alexandria and fattening on, and selling from, the Channel Country.
The period up to the late 1960s was a time of consolidation and internal development for the company. Although labour and materials were scarce during World War II, major improvement programs were undertaken on the properties in the post-war years.
The period from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s saw further expansion. Glenormiston was bought in 1968 and Islay Plains, in the Clermont district, was held for ten years from 1970. The most striking period of expansion, however, was from the mid-1980s with the purchase of the Wainui Feedlot (1985), Connemara (1986), Kynuna (1986), Boomarra (1989), Vergemont (1990, and sold in 1997), Coolullah (1992), Roxborough Downs (1994) and Dagworth (1995). Some of these purchases were made initially for drought relief, but all have played an important part in NAPCO's strategic development whether by positioning the company for grainfed product markets, or by expanding the company's breeding area to include Queensland's Gulf Country, or by adding geographic diversification to the property group and flexibility to herd disposition. Vergemont was sold in 1997.
Large-scale lotfeeding was in its infancy in 1985 when NAPCO purchased Wainui. One of the first major cattle producers to develop such a facility, the company continues to be a leader in this field. Wainui is essential to NAPCO as it underpins the company's guarantee of quality and consistency of supply to its customers.
Another mid-1980s milestone for NAPCO came when it identified composite breeding as an opportunity to exploit the genetics of different breeds, blending and matching important traits such as reproductive performance, maternal ability, growth rates and carcass characteristics with adaptability to the northern environment and market requirements. The program that followed made NAPCO a world leader in large-scale composite breeding, with two strategically developed composites on Alexandria from 1986, and Kynuna from 1995.
In 2000, NAPCO purchased the backgrounding property, Goldsborough. On an all-weather road and with same-day access to Wainui, the property allows cattle to be transferred into the feedlot throughout the northern wet seasons.
Then came the purchase of Alexandria's adjoining northern property, Mittiebah, in late 2001. Coincidentally, Mittiebah had been part of NAPCO in earlier days, prior to its resumption from Alexandria by the Northern Territory Government in 1965.
Other recent transactions have been the sales of Connemara in 2007, and Roxborough in 2010, as well as the purchase of Quiribee (2000) and Colorado (2005), both of which adjoin Goldsborough, and Codrington (2004), York Stud and Undarra (2005) and the Pengelly aggregation (2006), all of which adjoin Wainui.
A significant addition occurred in 2006 with the purchase of Cungelella in Central Queensland, the company's first large scale purchase in this area. In recent years, the company has also leased country in the Maranoa and Central Queensland, and entered into Backgrounding arrangements with third parties, who grow out NAPCO cattle for payment, dependent on kilograms gained.
While all of this has taken place, the company has continued to invest heavily in the further infrastructure development of its existing properties.
The survival and development of NAPCO over more than 130 years is a tribute to the people involved in particular the character, ability, foresight and often quite extraordinary dedication of those who have contributed both on and off the properties.