Hinck calls for open mind on grain imports

Hinck calls for open mind on grain imports

 A rain event of 14mm last week will keep crops at Trevor Hinck's Hyden property ticking along but he would appreciate a more substantial amount soon to really wet the ground up.

A rain event of 14mm last week will keep crops at Trevor Hinck's Hyden property ticking along but he would appreciate a more substantial amount soon to really wet the ground up.


RECEIVING 14 millimetres out of last week's cold fronts has been a benefit to crops on the Hinck family property at Hyden.


RECEIVING 14 millimetres out of last week's cold fronts has been a benefit to crops on the Hinck family property at Hyden.

But with a relatively dry start Trevor Hinck is hoping they aren't too far away from receiving a more substantial rain to really wet up the ground.

This year the Hincks have put in 5600 hectares of crop in a program that kicked off in early April.

"We had a storm come through so we put some canola in on that," Mr Hinck said.

"We put in 200ha and then pulled up to wait for some more rain.

"Last year we had a large canola program but it didn't finish off well and yielded well under 500 kilograms a hectare.

"We did have some frost, but I don't think the poor performance was due entirely to that.

"There was a late start to the season and a very dry finish and I reckon it was the dry finish that influenced the yield more than anything.

"The growth was there to support a better than 500-750 kilogram a hectare crop but the pods were empty when it came to harvest time."

Consequently the Hincks decided to halve the canola program this year and then when the rain didn't come after the initial 200ha went in, they pulled the canola out of the program altogether and substituted it with lupins.

"In hindsight, with the way the season is playing out I think we made the right call," Mr Hinck said.

"Eighty per cent of the canola is up and out of the ground and looks alright and this latest rain will certainly help it but the rest hasn't germinated as yet."

In terms of the remainder of the seeding program, the Hincks chipped away at it and finished the program in early June.

"Normally we like to finish by the end of May and we were a few days over that so that isn't too bad," he said.

"While we were hoping for more rain out of last week's system we aren't panicking just yet, but we are cautious at this stage."

The Hincks also run the Kerrigan Valley cattle feedlot which complements their cropping program.

The feedlot has a turnover of 10,000 head a year and has been running since 2000.

Running a grainfed operation has given Mr Hinck some insight into what Eastern States' farmers have been going through in terms of the drought that took hold last year.

And with the late start in WA and feed still tight for livestock in most parts of the State, he said it was important that all of Australia had a viable feedlotting sector.

"This State and the whole of the country would have been in all sorts of trouble in the past 12 months without feedlots," he said.

"The east coast lost an estimated 2.5-3 million cattle because of drought and flood last year and I would have hated to see what that number would have been if we didn't have a feedlot industry on the east coast.

"It also shows the importance of having a strong feedlot industry in WA.

"Even this year we are feeding a lot of cattle for graziers that are finding it difficult to maintain bodyweight due to the late break in the South West.

"You need options in seasons like this and feedlots are certainly part of that equation.

"The grassfed product is a good one when it can be delivered in spec and as we have seen in the past 12 months nationally that is not always possible."

With low supply of feed grain on hand in the east, Mr Hinck said it was also important to keep an open mind on the importing of grain from overseas.

"A lot of feedlots over there are still in a lot of pain and only have a week's supply of grain on hand," he said.

"If the boats weren't coming from WA they would be in a whole lot more pain.

"I think there needs to be an open discussion on importing grain because - and hopefully it never happens - if we were to have a nation-wide drought, it would be a disaster for the livestock industry.

"It is not ideal to be importing grain from overseas but we need to have a mechanism in place by which we can do it safely, because we are not just talking about feeding cattle, we are talking about the whole feeding industry if Australia can't supply enough grain for its domestic use as well as keep its export customers happy.

"Being an export-focused country, we have to maintain those markets also and while it is easy to say keep it all here, you can't forget about export customers.

"There needs to be a mechanism where in emergencies we can bring grain in safely with strict biosecurity measures in place.

"We don't want to open the floodgates, there has to be a tight biosecurity regime in place and grain growers should be engaged in these conversations, for that reason and for industry security.

"Production will look after itself, if the country is short on grain and can't maintain supply it has to come from somewhere."

In terms of the Kerrigan Valley feedlot, Mr Hinck said it was there for the long-term.

Last year, they invested heavily in putting shade cloth over the entire feedlot to provide more comfortable conditions for the cattle and the results have been pleasing.

"It is hard to quantify the benefits in dollar terms, but what we are seeing is totally different animal behaviour on hot days," he said.

"We have really relaxed cattle, moving in and out of the shade to the water trough or feed bunk and there is no visual indication of heat stress at all.

"The difference in ground temperature is amazing from in the shade to out of the shade and the animals are appreciating that."

While it was a significant investment, now that it is up Mr Hinck said there was very little work that needed to be done on it.

"The hardware will last forever and the nets probably have a 10-15 year lifespan and will then need replacing," he said.

"If you put the cost of it over the total turnover over five years it is not a lot per head and we are dealing with animals that are more comfortable and that makes us comfortable."


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