JIM Wedge decided on a tree change five years ago has put his heart and soul into his stud cattle and cropping enterprise on the historic Warwick district property, North Toolburra.
Jim and partner Jackie Chard bought the 1214ha property 2½ years ago and have made it home to Ascot Angus and Charolais Stud.
Jim said the stud was established five years ago, when they were located at East Greenmount, and today Ascot boasts 400 stud females in both their Angus and Charolais herds.
Both Jim and Jackie are busy preparing for the stud's inaugural on-property bull sale on Friday, November 9, where they will offer 60 quality young sires at auction.
"We are a customer-focused Angus and Charolais breeding operation which aims to deliver low risk, thick, polled bulls, bred with an MSA targeted approach," Jim said.
"When you buy an Ascot stud bull, you can be assured that the very best of both modern and traditional methods have been used.
"Our strict standards are designed to produce bulls that will improve the long-term efficiency and profitability of the beef industry."
Jim walked away from his life as director of McCracken's Water Services Group, selling up his 20 stores along the east coast, after being "talked into it".
"I had always had an interest in cattle and a passion to be involved in the industry but didn't have the time or money to do it," he said.
Growing up in the Rockhampton district, Jim played polocrosse for 10 years for the Alton Downs club.
Jackie was a Dalby girl and has a nursing background but nowadays they both call Warwick home.
The North Toolburra homestead underwent major renovations under the previous owners, Jo Baillieu and Neil Griffin, and Jim and Jackie are enjoying their spoils.
Jackie said the homestead suffered significant white ant damage over many years and had to be largely rebuilt.
"We have also put a lot of work into improving the property, including new fencing, a new stud sale complex and new yards, which will be built in time for the bull sale," Jackie said.
Today, the homestead is a majestic centrepiece of the fertile property, which has a 12km frontage to the Condamine River.
Jackie said the property traditionally produced grain crops, with 445ha of cultivation, but they needed to replace some of the grain with forage crops to provide feed for the stud cattle.
The property is also a thriving hay producer, with Jim and Jackie mainly selling lucerne hay and retaining oaten hay for their own use.
"We grow about 50ha of hay," Jackie said.
Jim said they bought Khancoban, a 728ha property at Glen Innes, 12 months ago to run stud breeders and heifers for their cattle operation.
North Toolburra has a long and colourful history. In 1857, James Morgan, manager for RG Massie and S Walker, formed the North Toolburra Run, which was the southern part of Old Talgai Station.
Donald Gunn was its first licensed occupier in 1863, and in 1865 it was sold to Thomas Coutts. He and his son, Thomas, owned North Toolburra for 50 years. Matthew Swinburne bought the property in 1895, and he and son Charles and grandson Charles John Forrest, owned it for 30 years.
Succeeding owners for shorter periods of time included the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, Captain William Edward McColm, Captain Robert Rankin, Major Harold Rubin, and John Herbert Warner.
Jackie said she was often stopped by people with stories of how their father, mother or grandfather worked on or share-farmed North Toolburra many years ago.
The students from Scots College, Warwick, also called it home during the war years.
During the Second World War, the Australian Government requisitioned Scots College for use as an army hospital at Easter time, 1942. The senior school was evacuated to the property through the generosity of then owners, the Rankin family. About 150 Scots students and staff lived and studied there for two years.
A plaque is erected on the walls of the homestead commemorating this event, and each year old boys return to North Toolburra to show their families where they resided during those war years.
North Toolburra gardens were opened to the public this year, as part of Australia's Open Garden Scheme, and Australian Diamonds netball star Laura Geitz will hold her wedding reception in the gardens on December 22.
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