Willinga’s leading edge
Multi-award winning Willinga Park, located on the NSW South Coast, is home to some of the most stunning architecturally-designed equine facilities in the world. Rosie O’Keeffe discovers how the enterprise is also proving world class in its commercial farming interests integrated into the operations at Bawley Point, and also managed at properties at Murrumbateman and in outback Queensland.
Whilst Terry Snow AM is perhaps most widely renowned for his business accomplishments in redeveloping the Canberra Airport precinct and co-founding the Snow Foundation, his vision to create the world’s best equine facility, Willinga Park, is an achievement he is equally as passionate about.
The $100 million architecturally designed facility on the 920-hectare property features a covered arena, three outdoor arenas, a 90 metre camp draft arena with judge’s box, six round yards, a show jumping field, 32 sophisticated stables, 200 event stables, vet room, walker and training pool. There are also conference facilities, event hall and breakout spaces with impressive mountainous views. The park’s landscape includes public art and native gardens and the facility also provides luxury accommodation.
“It’s a beautiful place. I am very proud of it. This is me,” Terry enthuses.
Whilst he’s proud of the momentum he created in overseeing the development with architects and his ongoing management of the facility, Terry hopes the community will continue to visit and enjoy the surrounds as a gathering place.
On such occasions, crowds from across the country flock to Willinga Park to its annual Gold Buckle camp draft in May. More than 4,000 people usually attend the four-day event, which not only showcases stock horses in action, but more than 2,500 Hereford cattle are transported from Terry’s 2,000ha Murrumbateman property “Hillview”.
“We need about 2,500 head of cattle for a camp draft and there just isn’t that sort of cattle located here on the South Coast, so we have taken to buying or breeding steers and managing them at Murrumbateman. They are able to get to the 300kg weight needed for drafting and they draft very well. They are very soft cattle and it makes it a complete picture,” Terry, who also has horses involved in the draft, says.
“We really wanted to be accepted in the camp draft community and with the largest prize money on offer in Australia, we do like to put money back into the sport and I hope it will give others a lift when they do see what we have achieved here.”
Willinga Park Livestock Manager Brett Petty agrees that buying the steers in late December to prepare for the camp draft event is a key part of the process. After the camp draft the steers return to the “Hillview” crops to fatten up on the pastures until they reach more than 520kg and go into the Woolworths grassfed program.
During the winter months, the Hereford steers have been run on grazing wheat crops.
“We plant about 520ha of grazing wheat and the rest is pasture based ryegrass, clover phalaris, and coxfoot.
Delta Ag animal health specialists Dr. Paul Cusack and Sam Simmons have developed a livestock health program, while Delta Ag agronomist James Cheetham oversees the pasture management at “Hillview” at Murrumbateman.
“Delta Ag has really helped in advising us on transporting the cattle giving us insights into how we can maintain our cattle’s weight, as we had been losing some weight in the relocation process. The biggest contribution Delta has made to our farm operations has been through our crop pasture programs. We make silage at Murrumbateman and the pasture program here on the coast is excellent. When Delta put together its team of experts on how to maintain cattle health, that was very advantageous, we hadn’t had that information before,” Terry says.
“We are now getting weight gains of 1.1 to 1.2kg a day and we are very satisfied with that.”
Terry explains that his passion for horses began when he was involved in the Bicentennial Trek Trail with pack horses. It was then Terry acquired stock horses and began breeding mares. The breeding program has progressed to 100 horses to be bred this year, and with stock horses and surrogates, there are close to 200 horses at Willinga Park stud.
“Stock horses are the horse of choice for cattle work. They’ve got the endurance and the intelligence, the scope, they can deliver the goods. We breed them here, but we mix them with American quarter horses so that gives them more attributes to work with the cattle,” Terry explains.
Brett says whilst the Bawley Point property currently does not have any cattle in its paddocks, due to concentrating on the horse breeding programs and the risk of hand foot and mouth disease, there will be herds again in the future.
“We work the cattle with the horses after an induction program to acclimatise the horses to the cattle specifically for the camp draft. A lot of farmers do not work cattle with horses anymore, but after the induction process, we break the cattle into the horses,” Brett says.
Whilst Terry concedes his horse riding days are behind him, he enjoys watching them perform.
“I do love competing the horses in the camp drafts and I get a lot of joy from breeding them. We’ve now built this leading edge veterinary hospital and I believe it will have a massive impact on equine health in Australia. We have multiple birth programs enabling the fertilization of 6 to 7 eggs at a time and individual semen can be identified, which has several advantages in the reproductive process. We don’t believe this technology has been offered before in Australia.
“We have got 15 high quality mares, Gold Cup winners, Willinga Park winners, and we hope to continue to breed and raise horses here before taking them to a facility we are currently constructing at Tamworth to then train the horses and prepare them for sale.”
Terry explains the stud is involved with eventing and equestrian events with riders in the Australian team taking centre stage at international events.
He believes the grass fed quality beef produced in Australia and cattle are the best in the world. He has six properties in Queensland across 72,000ha.
“Not only is the country in Queensland cheaper, I do believe it is actually better cattle country.
“The grass is less packy and we are getting terrific weight gains. We produce them for the local Queensland market,” he says.
Terry, who now resides at Willinga Park, reveals that whilst he is proud his vision has come to life at Willinga Park, his crowning achievement has been the redevelopment of Canberra Airport and surrounding industrial parks, having now invested more than $2 billion constructing and reorganising infrastructure.
“Everyone is surprised at the level of investment, but I do believe it has been justified and it has been very satisfying for myself and my son…” Terry, who was awarded as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006 for this contribution to Canberra and other entrepreneurial achievements, says.
It was in 1998 Terry, who originally trained as an accountant, purchased the 99-year lease on the airport from proceeds of selling the family property development business he was in with his father Bob and brother George.
Terry is also proud to speak of his involvement in establishing the Snow Foundation. It was in 1991 he and George established the organisation to benefit the disadvantaged community in Canberra and the surrounding region.
The Snow Foundation has key areas of focus – health, social welfare, education and employment. The Snow Foundation has reached out to help more than 700 different organisations and individuals, providing over $29 million in funding which includes $850,000 to individuals.
In addition, Terry also founded the Snow Medical Foundation which has given $90 million over the past two years to provide scholarships for teams of people to work with leading research institutions to make inroads into the problems of cancers and other diseases.