THE distraction of sheep has delayed harvest preparations for Dandaragan farmer Peter Negus, who has spent the past month shearing, weaning, selling old ewes and buying rams.
With 5500 breeding ewes, 4500 Merinos and 1000 cross breds, Mr Negus keeps busy trying to manage both programs and had little time to get ready for harvest 2018.
“We have just finished weaning all of our Merino lambs and we have been shearing cross-bred lambs with some shearing still to be finished,” Mr Negus said.
“All the sheep work has stopped us getting ready for harvest and we should get going this week if everything goes to plan.”
Mr Negus purchased nine Border Leicester rams recently which took out a few days of harvest preparation by the time they were tagged and treated.
“I’m into Border Leicester ewe lambs and I breed them up for the Eastern States market,” he said.
Mr Negus said they were very easy to breed and when he sent his first-cross ewe lambs east, there were always plenty of buyers.
“This year I would have got $9 per kilogram compared to $6/kg here,” he said.
“It’s easy cross breeding to get rid of the lambs and the market over there takes them at any size.”
Mr Negus is very happy with his venture into Border Leicesters, although wished he was closer to being ready for harvest.
“This year I thought I had heaps of time because of how the season was shaping up, but with a dry spring, the season came to an end a lot faster than anticipated and everything came to a head at once,” he said.
When Farm Weekly visited the property Mr Negus was preparing to fit a new “diff” into the tractor used to tow the chaser bin.
Waiting for a part to arrive from interstate, he sourced a second-hand one just in time.
The mechanic was scheduled to visit the property at the end of last week to pull the old one out and replace it with the new one, taking up important time.
He has 2300 hectares in the program this season.
“We had about 20 millimetres just over two weeks ago and that came just in time,” he said.
“It was probably a week late to be the perfect time after the dry September with the crops starting to dry out, canola particularly.”
Mr Negus said his 400ha of canola didn’t benefit from the October rain as they swathed it the next day.
He said the 500ha of lupins and 800ha of wheat benefited from the 19.5mm in October but 400ha of barley didn’t benefit as much because of the quick drying time at the end of September.
Mr Negus said it was a short, fast and wet season with the opening rain on May 24 and the finishing rain in the last week of August.
“We have had over 607mm for the year with 80mm in January and 20mm over February, March and April,” he said.
“After the season break it just didn’t stop with 66mm for May, 84mm in June and over 100mm for July.
“We had a total of 169.5mm for August and within the first week of August we recorded 73mm and the second week recorded 30mm.”
By the start of August, Mr Negus said they had water logging issues with some crops.
“The lupins probably can’t handle the water so there are parts of the lupins that have died,” he said.
“Nothing major but there is a bit of loss there, probably 20ha suffering.
“But we will take the water logging over a dry season.”
With limited heavy country over the 4850ha property, the sandplain opens itself to problems such as pH levels, leaching, disease and weed resistance.
Mr Negus said because of the wet season they have got a good germination of ryegrass.
“I have done a lot of mouldboard ploughing to try and fix both pH levels and non wetting soils,” he said.
“The canola is good because it’s all on high country, but the barley probably suffered the worst and it has recovered reasonably well.
“Wheat on the heavy country has probably suffered a little bit and the barley probably got inundated with a bit of weeds.”
Mr Negus said 650mm was the average rainfall from about 40 years ago, but the last 10-year average was closer to 525mm.
“It doesn’t rain like it used to,” he said.
“Back then June and July always had more wet days than dry days but this year August had 12 wet days and July had 13 wet days, so its not far off but usually it was 16 and 17 wet days.
“Also this year the rains were much bigger in one hit rather than small showers over the months.”
Mr Negus said because of the heavy rainfall, the inputs have increased especially with nitrogen due to leaching.
This season he has applied more than 100 units of nitrogen across all crops, except lupins.
“Thankfully we got that last rain otherwise it would have been a very dry, tight finish and we would probably have high screenings and high protein,” he said.
They had a good finish last season but this wasn’t matched with good pricing.
Mr Negus was hoping this year’s crops would be just above average, but he wouldn’t know until the header started rolling.
“It just depends on the weight of the grain,” he said.
“Lupins will be huge and well above average, the barley will be above average, wheat should go an average of about 3t/ha and the canola will be just on average because of the shorter season.”