The North Australian Pastoral Company, NAPCO, is one of Australia’s most outstanding and enduring beef producers. Its 13 cattle stations cover over 5.8 million hectares whilst the largest, Alexandria, first acquired in 1877, alone exceeds the size of Northern Ireland.
It was founded in 1877 as a partnership of 3 Queenslanders Thomas McIlwraith, one of the State’s most noted early entrepreneurs; William Collins a cattle expert from Beaudesert; William Forrest the business person of the partnership; and two English investors.
NAPCO survived the financial and drought induced crises of the 1890s due in no small measure to its Burdekin properties which were less drought affected and through their closeness to abattoirs.
The first two decades of the 20th Century were almost as equally challenging due to drought, war and changes in the ownership structure. A turning point in the company’s history arrived in 1937 when Francis Foster invested in NAPCO taking an 18% interest which grew through his life time to 43%, bringing with it exceptional pastoral skills and a long term vision. Through successive generations of the Foster family NAPCO has enjoyed an enviable level of stability which laid the basis for development of the composite breeding program and pioneering contributions to land care, conservation and disease minimization.
Also central to NAPCO’s longevity and operational success, has been its integration of multiple properties into a resilient chain for purposes of breeding, fattening and drought-proofing, complemented by the Wainui feedlot on the Darling Downs. Alexandria, which provides stock to other properties in the Channel County, Central Queensland and the Darling Downs, is the centrepoint.
NAPCO has experienced sustained growth since the 1980s and anticipated growing international demand will continue this trajectory. A defining characteristic of the company’s success has been a family approach to the business under a succession of impressive leaders including Foster family members, Douglas Fraser, Michael Crouch and more recently Christopher Lyndon and Nigel Alexander.
Spanning a vast area of the nation and with a head of approximately 200,000 cattle today, NAPCO is an outstanding Queensland business, typifying the State’s pastoral heritage, pioneering spirit and resilience. Remarkably, descendants of the founding entrepreneurs have continued to play leading roles in the company until the present day.
In May 2016, QIC Limited acquired an 79% interest in NAPCO with the Foster family owning the remaining 21%, thereby ensuring that local control of this important national business is retained.