SEEDING is a busy time of year for WA grain growers, but there’s no shortage of helping hands at Dave and Marnie Mackie’s New Norcia property.
With two keen farmers under the age of four, there was plenty of excitement for the couple’s sons Jeremy, 4, and Will, 2, when the action started at Undanooka farm last month.
“We’ve got a couple of little farmers who just love it, so they’ve been out keeping me company,” Mr Mackie said.
He is the third generation of the Mackie family to farm in the area and it is the fourth year that he and Marnie are running their own seeding program.
This year close to 60 per cent of the program will be planted to oats for hay, while the rest of the crop will be split between canola and barley.
The oats – made up of Kojonup, Carrolup and Winjardie varieties – are an important part of the enterprise, with all hay sent to the family business at Gilmac for export.
Mr Mackie said Kojonup was his favoured variety, after performing well in recent seasons.
“I’ve found Kojonup better on quality, 2014 was the first year we put it in and it’s been good since then,” he said.
“In those first years it didn’t look great through the growing season but it always seemed to pull through.”
Meantime Bass is the variety of choice for barley, while Stingray canola was being scratched in on barley stubble when Farm Weekly dropped by in late April, about two weeks into seeding.
“Stingray is what we’ve used since we started growing canola three years ago, it’s good for direct heading,” he said.
It’s the biggest crop the family has put in to date, with a new property in the mix this year adding a few extra hundred hectares to the program.
Besides an increase in area planted, seeding plans haven’t strayed too far from the usual rotation in 2018.
“There’s much nicer barley prices but we’ll stick to the general formula this year,” Mr Mackie said.
“I’m a stickler for routine, I find if you don’t stay with some sort of a pattern for a while you’re never going to get the gains that you originally thought.”
It has been a dry start to the season at New Norcia and like many other growers across the State, Mr Mackie was expecting to plant most of his crop dry.
A John Deere 9520T has got the job pulling the Mackie’s Morris 7252 variable rate air cart and Morris Concept 2000 bar and three seasonal staff are on board to help over the next few weeks, with plenty of work to do seeding, spraying and rock picking.
It’s been a busy lead up to the season, with a comprehensive soil preparation program in place on the farm and a few summer weeds needing attention,” Mr Mackie said.
“I started quite early spreading and speed tilling, incorporating the fertiliser and chopping up stubbles, just to get that job done when I could so now I can just concentrate on seeding.”
“Over summer we sprayed everything once, mainly spraying for a lot of Mintweed and melons.”
After a reasonable season in 2017, Mr Mackie said he was optimistic about the year ahead.
Despite a dry start to autumn, he was hoping some decent rain later this month would set the season up well.
“I’m feeling better about this year with better prices,” he said.
“Things started steadily going up last year with the barley and I’m more optimistic with the hay prices, which were a bit disappointing last year.
“I’m just ready for a good year, I’m really enjoying farming and it’s great having the kids around to help.
“We love seeing them grow up on the farm – it brings back a lot of your own childhood memories too – so it’s nice to see them have the same experiences.”