WANNAMAL farmer and earth-moving contractor Monty Driessen loves his Caterpillar D10 dozer.
So it wasn't any surprise to see him swing it into action this month to see if he could crack open the bauxite and ironstone rock outcrops on parts of his 1000ha (2500ac) property.
What was a surprise, for him at least, was the rich soil he uncovered and it has put his ripping program on hold as he prepares a 28-run combine seeder to establish an oat crop on 55ha (136ac) of "useless" land.
The focus is on expanding his hay, lupins and prime lamb enterprise and making his land more friendly to a broadacre seeding rig.
"It has got to rain, of course," he said. "But that's my plan.
"I'm just intrigued by what I've done which was just a thought when I kept looking at the rocky outcrops which grew nothing and shedded water into eroding gullies.
"The areas provided some pick for the sheep but nothing really sustaining."
On mainly undulating country, Monty attached two industrial-grade ripper tines to the rear of the D10, spaced at 45cm (18in) apart and mounted a 8.4 metre (28ft) rock rake on the front for his rip and rake exercise.
"I brought up some big bundies which I raked into heaps and then I used a rib roller filled with water to crush the smaller rocks or push them into the soil," he said. "I was ripping down to 14 inches (35cm) and while I expected big rocks I'm amazed at how I could pulverise the sheet rock and get loose soil which I could flatten to sow a crop.
"It started as a bit of an experiment but looking at what I've done has given me encouragement to do the entire 360ha (900ac) in this block of land.
"On the patch I've cut out this month, I'll undersow the oats with clover to provide the sheep with some tucker during summer and I reckon I'll get a good spring flush of clover which will hang on in this dirt because any moisture we get will go straight in and won't run-off."
According to Monty the cost of the "experiment" is about $900 an acre ($2250/ha).
But he is circumspect about the cost of the process.
"If you consider that I'm bringing land back into production forever and stopping erosion, I reckon I'll get that cost back in one year through the improved value of my property," he said.