When you think of massive cattle operations, you probably think first about Texas, Brazil, Argentina, or the American “cattle belt” that runs through Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri. In terms of production, you would be correct: Texas produces more cattle by volume than any U.S. state. Oklahoma and Nebraska have the most cattle per square mile. Brazil is the world’s second largest cattle producer behind the U.S., and Argentina comes in at number six.
Yet the largest cattle ranch, in terms of size, isn’t located in any of these countries- nor is it located in the European Union, China, or India, the other countries that round out the top six.
The world’s largest cattle farm, Anna Creek Station, is actually located in Australia. Despite Australia’s dry and arid company, it is actually the sixth largest cattle-producing country in the world, with over two million beef cows produced every year.
Anna Creek Station has an area of 9,142 square miles- or 5,851,000 acres. It has been in business for 121 years, and when placed up for sale in 2015, it was estimated to be worth more than $300 million.
Despite the massive size- larger than the state of New Jersey- Anna Creek Station keeps a small herd. The station will typically produce between 11,000 in a down year and 16,500 in a good year.
The history of Anna Creek Station
Many of Australia’s original settlers were actually convicts. The British Empire used Australia as a penal colony, choosing to resettle prisoners that would have otherwise received the death penalty.
Australia became a destination for free settlers in the early 19th century, and penal colonization ceased in 1868 with the arrival of the final convict ship, The Hougoumont.
Due to Australia’s hostile climate and soil, and the colonists and convicts’ relative lack of experience with agriculture, farming was difficult. Many turned to subsistence hunting to survive. Ranching soon became common, with farmers needing large swaths of grazing land to get their animals the amount of food they needed.
Anna Creek itself was discovered by Col. Warburton in 1858. Anna Creek Station was founded in 1863 as a sheep farm, raising 7,300 of them for wool and meat. However, sheep are vulnerable to dingo attacks, so they shortly made the switch to cattle.
For most of the station’s history, cattle were mustered by cowboys on horseback. As technology has improved, the station has adapted- cowboys now use dirtbikes and light aircraft to herd and monitor cattle.
Near bankruptcy and sale
The station came to be owned by Australian cattle company S. Kidman and Co Ltd, which almost closed it down in 2008 after severe droughts led them to reduce their stock to only 1,500 cattle.
Floods brought a change of favor, however: by 2011 the station had rebounded to 10,000 head of cattle, and in 2012, they raised 17,000 head.
The station was sold in 2016 to another Australian cattle company, Williams Cattle Company.
Anna Creek Station now has 9,500 cattle and employs eleven people, including 8 farm hands. You can find more information about the station on the Williams Cattle Company website.