Truss sees Gairdner woes

26 Jul, 2001 07:12 AM
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GAIRDNER wool and grain growers Glen and Erryn Hall drove Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss across their farm last week, to show him first hand the problems several dry seasons have caused.

They have 2100ha of arable land with 1100ha of it being cropped.

They run 1900 Merinos, 500 of which will make up the 1400 head they have out on agistment.

Remaining to ensure the future of the flock are 700 with lambs at foot, that have had to be fed pellets.

"Mr Truss will get a false impression of conditions down here, because we've had recent rain to start germination," Mr Hall said.

"The country looks green but it is deceptive. We sold off our young ewes today. To continue to feed them I estimate could cost us $63 a head.

"We've spent $44,000 on feed and at the current cost of buying in grain or pellets you can't continue feeding."

About 30mm of rain fell during the past week after 18mm fell at the beginning of May.

Mr Hall is the son of Len Hall, a Gairdner pioneer war service settler.

He feels he's doing everything management wise to keep the farm moving ahead despite the run of bad seasons.

He seeded through his Shearer airseeder - Horwood Bagshaw bar the first of 240ha of canola on May 16.

He was forced to reseed that paddock on June 1, the germination was so patchy. The last seeding of 160ha of canola has not yet germinated.

He started sowing wheat and barley on June 16, but had to stop because of the soil's dryness.

In year 2000, the canola crops averaged only 0.31t/ha, barley 1.62t/ha and wheat 0.815t, against a long term average wheat yield of 2.2t/ha.

He had his wheat in on July 14, a month later than planned. Mr Hall estimates the wheat and barley have cost him $110/ha to get them into the ground. Canola more, the cost variable, perhaps 140/ha.

"It's been difficult to plan ahead," he said.

"In 1998 it was too wet for a good crop; in 1999 there was rust, but yields weren't too bad. The seasons have been frustrating since 1992.

"We need to alert Mr Truss to what the real situation is. The 1993 year was our wettest year ever.

"Feed and crops wouldn't grow from the cold and wet. We had 700mm. This year we've had 92mm for the whole year."

He had his own grain drying. In the 1999 wet season he dried 800t of wheat; saved $60/t of dockages - a total saving of $48,000 estimated dollars.

Glen Hall said he thinks he's managing the current drought fairly well.

"The farm's got a bit of soil coverage for Mr Trust to see. I think our farm is looking better than it did in the 1969-70 drought, and 1982, partly because we've de-stocked a lot quicker. I think Mr Truss might say that at least this guy has been trying to help himself.

"Yes, I get depressed but I'm telling myself at least I've tried to do the best I can for my land and livestock. I think we can say that the large majority of farmers in WA are doing a lot better at handling drought than we used to, but the weather is beating us."

The April drop Merino lambs will have to be weaned early and fed - another problem, having already spent $44,000 of bought in feed. Add the 80t of barley kept back from the last year's harvest.

A paddock of oats has been scratched in for feed. Experience proved it better to buy in lupins than try to grow a crop for sheep feed.

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