Valuing the community connection

24 Sep, 2013 02:00 AM
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Lake King farmer Michael West with his daughter Ida and wife Asa doing an inspection of this year's crop.
Lake King farmer Michael West with his daughter Ida and wife Asa doing an inspection of this year's crop.

MICHAEL West is a good example of the next generation farmer.

He is a community man, family man and an innovative and motivated farmer.

Michael is one of those guys who will always put his hand up for something which needs to be done.

Whether it is the cricket club, football club or local busy bees, he is always in there helping out and he understands what it is like living in a small community.

And communities don't get much smaller than Lake King.

But even Michael admits the small town is now flourishing with lots of young families and kids.

And Michael and his wife Asa are also contributing to this, having recently had their first child, Ida.

"There is a bit of a baby boom going on in the area!" Michael said.

Michael, 32, grew up on the family farm between Dunn Rock and Lake King and is a third generation farmer.

He returned to the property in 1999 after completing high school at Hale.

He said during his time in Perth, he was presented with a number of opportunities but always knew he would return to the family farm.

"I was born and bred into it," he said.

"I certainly have got a connection with the community and the farm and it is just in my blood I guess."

But while Michael knew he would go farming, the last few years, like many in WA, have been tough on the family's 5200 hectare property.

He said farm profitability was clearly the biggest issue in agriculture at the moment.

"We just need to get consistently paid enough for what we produce," he said.

"The margins have got so tight, that one bad season can do a lot of damage.

"In the past you could ride them out and look forward to the next good season.

"The prices just need to consistently be a bit higher than what they are currently.

"Production has been pushed to the limit and there isn't much more that we can produce."

Michael said a Crop Mitigation Insurance product would certainly help, especially in years like last year where a large part of the area was hit by frost.

"So often you have a nice looking crop and it gets ruined by frost and that is certainly heartbreaking," he said.

"We had quite a lot of frost in the barley last year but the wheat was virtually untouched.

"Normally the barley is a bit more tolerant than wheat but it wasn't the case last year."

This year Michael and his father Bruce have put in 3200ha of wheat, barley, canola, lupins and a few peas while also running about 2000 Merino and Prime SAMM-Merino cross ewes.

He said they have kept everything reasonably similar over the last five to six years because they believe they have a good mix between the sheep and cropping operations.

"We have found a balance with the number of sheep we run and we don't seem to run out of stubbles or feed too early," he said.

"We have had the same land area, sheep numbers and cropping area for probably five or six years now, so it is working pretty well."

Michael's sheep flock is self replacing, as he and Bruce choose not to trade any sheep.

He said this year he had been impressed with how the flock had performed.

This was largely due to the good rain so far this season and sheep prices holding up.

Michael said they had a great start to the season with plenty of rain in March which led to good clover germination.

"We have been turning lambs off for the last couple of weeks and they have been in good shape," he said.

"The dressing percentage has been good and we have been selling them for about $100."

Michael is hoping that the good season now finishes off to get crops to their full potential.

"The season so far has been fairly kind," he said.

"We just need some rain in the next month and we should be right."

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