THE far eastern Wheatbelt has been a notoriously tough area for farmers who have suffered through drought, hail and frost for years.
But the skies have opened up in 2016, producing some great rainfalls and some even greater livestock feed on the Granich family's Moorine Rock property.
For Joe and Lisa Granich, Northside Farm, this year has taken the pressure off for their 900 Merino breeding ewes, of which 500 are mated to Merinos and 400 to Suffolk sires.
Joe and Lisa, with the help of full-time workers Kim Ross and Harold Eattes, sons Louis and Matt and casual workers and drivers, also run about 90 Murray Grey, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster breeders, a 2700 hectare cropping program and their own trucking company, Granich Contractors.
"We put in oats, lupins and wheat, but we have cut our cropping back," Joe said.
"We have got an extra mob of sheep here and had a mob of bulls that we were feeding and we buy and sell a few cattle and sheep.
"That is just the way it has gone this year."
Northside Farm has been in the Granich family for decades, when Joe's father moved to Moorine Rock.
"My dad came here in the 50s," Joe said.
"He started it up back then and we have been here ever since."
Times have changed over the years, with farmers adapting to the changing climate in the east and pushing their livestock towards meat over wool production.
"We were primarily wool over meat, but that has changed, depending on the number of breeding ewes we have," Joe said.
"Like this year, if it looks like we have a good drop of Merino lambs, we might cut them back and go a lot more crossbreds to see how it goes."
After introducing Suffolk rams into the operation, the option to focus on meat has been a lucrative one for Joe.
"For us, we have changed to focus more on the meat than the wool side of things," Joe said.
"But there are still plenty of people that are predominantly wool focused.
"For me, I love wool but the money side of it is only alright.
"I am more interested in the meat side because it is the main money generator."
The drier and harsher conditions in Moorine Rock also took its toll on the Granich family's lambing percentage, as the drought set in back in 2007-2008.
While the purebred Merinos were back up to 100 per cent lambing last year, the Suffolk-Merino cross mob is still sitting at about 85pc.
"We had a couple of rough, dry feed years a while back and our percentages dropped off a bit," Joe said.
"But it has been much better in the past few years, so we will do more crossbreds and be harder on our sheep to capitalise on that meat market.
"We are going to start going harder on our lambing percentage now that we have a good year in front of us."
Joe said their decision to introduce a Suffolk crossbred stemmed from the drought-related pressures.
"That is the main reason we have gone into the Suffolk crossbreds," Joe said.
"You get to about September-October and you can usually knock off a mob of crossbred lambs and keep the Merinos in case things are a bit tight.
"That way you can shovel things out and you are reducing those numbers."
Joe and Lisa vary from running their mobs on land and in the feedlots, but Joe said he would much rather keep them out when the feed is there.
"If you have the feed available, keep them out there as long as you can," Joe said.
"It just cuts down costs, as you don't have to be supplementing them in the feedlots."
When it comes to buying a ram, Joe said he follows what most farmers in the area go for.
"We look for the typical Wheatbelt rams, those that can stand our harsh, drier conditions," Joe said.
"That will include a big frame, a plainer body and you do go for your wool quality.
"We will pay a reasonable amount for rams, but I don't believe in going crazy because I think about three quarters of any animal is what you feed it."
The Merino bloodlines that Joe uses are the Trevino Poll Merino stud, Southern Cross, and Seven Oaks South Poll, Merredin.
Joe and Lisa join their Suffolk rams to their Merino ewes in early October, and put their Merino rams out in November, at about 2pc in both breeds.
"We used to go in on October 1, but we are starting to go that week or so later so as to avoid hitting that big summer heat," Joe said.
"You do see a bit of a notable difference in the crossbreds and Merinos in terms of lambing.
"We probably never get quite as good percentages out of Suffolks, simply because they drop early and we are using a bit less of a ewe sometimes.
"Though, we are trying to bring those ewes back up a bit now that we are seeing some good rains."
All Joe and Lisa's lambs are shorn and weaned about September, with the Suffolk-Merino crossbreds sold to Fletcher International Exports.
The Granichs' Merinos are also sold to Fletchers, with a good skin at five to six months and ewe hoggets are classed and sold at about 52 kilograms following a full year of growth.
"Our culling program is pretty standard; we cull for wool, size and any dries," Joe said.
"All our cattle and livestock are pregnancy tested, so any dries will automatically go."
To further alleviate economic pressures, Joe and Lisa decided to also start running cattle in the early 2000s.
"I have always been interested in cattle," Joe said.
"And in the past 15 years we have got a lot more summer rain, and cattle are really good with the summer weeds and feed."
Joe began with pure Murray Greys, before buying in Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster heifers to crossbreed with.
"Predominantly, we like the Murray Grey bulls over Droughtmaster cattle, for the simple reason that you hardly see them having a calf," Joe said.
"They just drop it on the ground and there are hardly any dramas."
And when it comes to transporting their cattle and sheep, it couldn't be easier for the Granich family, with their own trucking company.
Due to unforeseen circumstances and high interest rates in the 1980s, Joe bought his first truck at age 23.
"We had to make ends meet and I can safely say we wouldn't be here today if we didn't make the decision to get into trucking," Joe said.
"And it works in good for us.
"We can move all our own stock and what we buy in.
"As well as farming, we are kept pretty busy with our trucks, carting cattle, sheep, hay and fertiliser across the Wheatbelt, the Goldfields and pastoral area.
"So, to be able to cut costs and time by carting our own livestock makes life a lot easier."
With promising seasons and rainfall becoming more regular in Moorine Rock, Joe and Lisa will look to make some changes to their livestock program.
"I think we are going to change a couple of things," Joe said.
"We are looking at going to three shearings every two years; at the moment we shear in June and are thinking of shearing again in summer.
"We will look at shearing them as late as we can, and try joining them a bit later so they aren't carrying that wool.
"The past five years or so, we have had a lot of trouble with lice.
"So that double shearing might help alleviate those issues.
"Hopefully with those couple of changes, we might be able to get some real good lambing percentages."