Jumbuck Pastoral owns one of the biggest flocks of sheep in Australia and, with a new generation at the helm, it’s going to get bigger.

Story By Tom Dawkins

Accessed via a side street and down a narrow laneway in Adelaide’s CBD is the unassuming headquarters of one of Australia’s most significant agricultural enterprises. Owned by the MacLachlan family, Jumbuck Pastoral has never been big on chasing publicity and the almost hidden location of its Jumbuck House is testament to this.
Jumbuck is unique in that unlike most of Australia’s big pastoral businesses it was not founded on cattle but wool. And while many of the country’s most famous Merino names have gradually receded from prominence after decades of low sheep and wool prices, Jumbuck has continued to grow in geography, diversity and, ultimately, resilience.
The rust-stained sign high above the office’s front door wears its years of exposure to the elements unashamedly. But in the time since the sign’s paintwork started to wither, a significant transformation has been taking place at Jumbuck House. Entering from the street, visitors are taken upstairs via an old-fashioned lift that shares its vintage with wool’s glory days: around the time a bale of Merino fibre could buy a new motorcar.
Upstairs, the lift opens to Jumbuck’s beautifully appointed and recently refitted office suite. It is an appropriate introduction to a company that, so clearly flush with history, is also undergoing significant modernisation. A key plank of Jumbuck’s renewal has been the transition of leadership. In 2009, after almost half a century at the helm, Hugh MacLachlan handed the reins to his two sons, Jock, 46, and Callum, 41, who are now joint managing directors.
The brothers look every bit the part in Adelaide’s business scene; both dressed in smart suits they seem to be in their element in Jumbuck’s boardroom. But what sets them apart is the fact that Jock and Callum have inherited responsibility for more than 300,000 sheep – long noted as one of the biggest flocks in Australia – plus a herd of about 45,000 cattle spread over properties in three states, totalling some 3.54 million hectares.
The company was founded in 1888 and Jock and Callum are only the fourth generation to head it. Hugh, or ‘HG’ as he is known, served as managing director for just shy of 50 years and was preceded by 40-year stints from his father ‘BH’ and grandfather ‘HP’. Hugh stepped down at 75, in line with a transition plan that has been underway for the best part of a decade.

This Story is from Issue #87

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2013