One of Australia’s most successful and best-known cattlemen, Graeme Acton, remains in a critical condition Royal Brisbane Hospital after a serious horse accident.
Mr Acton, 63, was competing in a campdrafting event — a sport he and his family are passionate about — at Clarke Creek northwest of Rockhampton late on Friday afternoon when his horse rolled on him.
The chief executive and joint owner of the highly-successful Acton Land and Cattle Company is understood to have suffered severe head injuries and spinal trauma, and is said to be on life support.
His son, Tom, who manages the family’s Croydon Station near Marlborough, described his father’s condition as serious, but stable.
He said his father was in the hands of the best specialists possible in intensive care and asked for privacy for the family.
Graeme’s wife Jennie, brothers Evan and Allen, and adult children Tom, Victoria, Hayley and Laura and their extended families have all flown to Brisbane from their home farm base of Paradise Lagoons near Rockhampton to gather at Mr Acton’s bedside.
Reports Mr Acton's spinal cord was severely damaged in the accident have been denied.
Mr Acton, together with his brother Evan, runs one of Australia’s biggest pastoral empires. Owning nearly 200,000 head of cattle and more than 1.5 million hectares of cattle stations spread across central and Northern Queensland.
A gruff, straight-talking, no-nonsense and much-loved Rockhampton identity, Mr Acton has become a leader in the cattle industry as his empire has survived and flourished where many other corporate cattle chains such as Stanbroke, Colonial and AACo have foundered.
The Actons’ great-grandparents migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1865 and began the family cattle dynasty when they purchased 400 hectares of grazing land near Rockhampton.
Today the family business is valued at more than $400 million, with about 60 per cent of the Actons’ beef exported to Asia and the Middle East under the Acton Super Beef brand.
In 2012, the Acton brothers had their “Kerry Packer-Alan Bond” moment, when they sold 122,000 hectare Moray Downs scrub country cattle station near Clermont, that they had bought 20 years earlier for $7 million, to Indian mining billionaire Gautam Adani and his Adani Group for $110 million for its underground coal deposits.
It followed an earlier deal with McArthur Coal, to sell them part of Iffley Station, southwest of Mackay, for $37 million deal.
Both sales, which helped the company pay off debt and escape the worst ravages of the Global Financial crisis, also cleverly allowed the brothers to continue running cattle on two-thirds of the properties not needed for open-cut coal mining for the next decade.
Ian Lovegrove, Secretary of the Livestock Saleyards Association of Queensland and a close family local friend told the ABC that Mr Acton was one of the most positive people he had ever met.
“Graeme is one hell of a tough fellow, he’s been through the mill, he’s been on the land all his life,” he said.
“He’s had a lot of falls and he’s faced a lot of adversities ... he doesn’t know the word impossible; if anyone can make it, Graeme can..”
Mr Acton was flown to Brisbane early yesterday morning from Rockhampton by air ambulance after his condition deteriorated.
“The Acton family, headed by Graeme and his brothers Evan and Allan, is a very prominent and major part of beef production in Queensland. The whole sector will be thinking of them.’’
The latest accident comes just a year after the rural community was shocked by the sudden death of a member of another of the state’s beef dynasties.
Zanda McDonald, 41, died in April 2013 from head, chest and spinal injuries suffered in a fall while he was carrying out maintenance on a windmill at the family homestead near Cloncurry. He headed the McDonalds’ MDH pastoral company — Queensland’s largest landholders.
The Actons nudged ahead of the McDonalds as the state’s richest graziers two years ago. They were ranked number 24 on last year’s Sunday Mail Queensland’s Top 150 Rich List with an estimated wealth of $405 million.
Mr Acton’s home is Paradise Lagoons near Gracemere, which hosts Australia’s largest campdraft each year. He was made a member of the Australian Campdraft Association roll of honour in 2012 and is deputy chairman of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.