Dry season drives early harvest finish

Dry season drives early harvest finish

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Harvest wrapped up last week on Arizona Farms at Lake Grace. Worker Caine Davidson (left), is with Luke Bairstow and Bevan McDougall with his son Hugo, 3.

Harvest wrapped up last week on Arizona Farms at Lake Grace. Worker Caine Davidson (left), is with Luke Bairstow and Bevan McDougall with his son Hugo, 3.

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With harvest having come to a close, the Bairstow and McDougall families of Arizona Farms, Lake Grace, are pleased with the outcome of this season's crop.

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WITH harvest having come to a close, the Bairstow and McDougall families of Arizona Farms, Lake Grace, are pleased with the outcome of this season's crop.

Having received a fraction of their usual rainfall, between 180 to 220 millimetres throughout the year, of which about 15mm was summer rain, this year's crops have put a smile on all faces within the family.

In a typical year, the farm averages about 300mm of rainfall.

"We are happy considering the rain we had - we had a very dry July, a good August but no rainfall in September," said Luke Bairstow.

"It wouldn't have taken much more rain to really get us on average across the board, even 15mm in September would have nearly got us there.

"We only had 2mm in September to finish but we were very fortunate to get a nice 18-20mm at the end of August, so that probably saved us from where we could have been.

Enthusiastic little farmer Hugo in one of 'his' headers with dad Bevan McDougall.

Enthusiastic little farmer Hugo in one of 'his' headers with dad Bevan McDougall.

"Without that last rain in August, we could have been worse off than last year, if that's possible,'' as they endured low rainfall, low yields and a fire which destroyed a hay shed.

"This year we are happy with how the crop turned out considering the rainfall we had," Luke said.

Limited rainfall prompted them to start harvest on October 26, which was about 10 days earlier than usual.

"The early start was purely on the fact that we had no rain in September," Luke said.

The property is operated by Noel and Karen Bairstow with their two children, Luke and Chloe and their families.

Luke returned home to the farm in 2010 and farms with his wife Jemma and daughters Eva, 4, Abby, 2 and Kate, 8 months.

Chloe, an agronomist who previously worked at Landmark, moved back to the property last year with her husband Bevan McDougall and their children Hugo, 3 and Daisy, 10 months.

This year's duties have been filled with Noel and their worker Rohan Ballard driving the trucks, Luke and Bevan on the headers and worker Caine Davidson operating the chaser bin.

The Bairstow and McDougall families cropping operation of 11,000 hectares included canola, barley, oats and mixed legumes, as well as pasture.

The Bairstow and McDougall families cropping operation of 11,000 hectares included canola, barley, oats and mixed legumes, as well as pasture.

The whole operation is run on 11,000 hectares, with 70 per cent dedicated to cropping and 30pc cattle, with about 1500 Angus breeders.

Their program comprised 2800ha planted to barley, 2700ha of wheat, 1300ha oats, about 500ha of mixed legumes with the balance being pasture.

About 900ha of the crop was cut for hay, which commenced on September 20.

They got about 3000 square hay bales and due to the yield being low, the hay will be kept for cattle feed.

The crop is taken off using two Class 9 John Deere headers.

Luke said harvest had been pretty smooth sailing, with only one weather event which put operations on hold for three days, only a couple of fire bans and no machinery breakdowns, which also favoured in their early finish last week.

"Finishing harvest by the end of November is certainly a first for us," he said.

With less rainfall than usual and very little summer rain, they were pleased with how this year's crops performed.

With less rainfall than usual and very little summer rain, they were pleased with how this year's crops performed.

Harvest kicked off with their barley crop and although it was just below average, they were happy regardless.

Barley averaged a yield of 2.1 tonnes per hectare and in a normal season, it would achieve about 2.5t/ha.

The varieties of choice were Spartacus and Planet.

Although Planet barley was the most frost-affected out of the whole operation, Luke said it had better quality than Spartacus.

"Spartacus barley all went feed and we managed to get a small percentage of Planet into Malt 2," he said.

Despite being within a frost-prone area, Luke said the past two season's yields have been more affected by a dry finish than the damage caused by frost.

About 20pc of their whole barley crop was frost-affected but fortunately the wheat managed to escape any significant damage.

"The wheat was purely on timing, it managed to get through alright this year which is good," he said.

Oats proved to be very pleasing for the family, yielding 2.2-2.3t/ha with the varieties Williams and Bannister.

"It's difficult to say how that compares to our average yield because it really varies," Luke said.

"We cut a lot of our oats for hay and based on that yield and how the season goes, a decision is made on how much we will harvest for seed requirement and what we will deliver and sell.

"This year all of the oats went Oat 1," he said.

"With good prices at the moment, we are stoked with how the oats went."

Harvest concluded with wheat and Luke was very pleased with how it performed.

"We are really happy with the wheat, the quality has been good with it going APW1 and H2," he said.

Scepter was the variety of choice which made up their whole wheat crop.

"We have done all Scepter for the past few years and it seems to suit us well," he said.

"It yielded just below our average of 2t/ha."

Taking on a new lease property at Pinjarra to run some cattle helped lift some of the pressure on the farm caused by a water and feed shortage.

This is the first year of the Pinjarra block being part of the operation.

Currently running about 550 breeders, this block allowed the family to maintain herd numbers as it provided extra feed and at a different location it spread the risk.

On the home property at Lake Grace, the cattle graze on pasture throughout the season and over summer they are on cereal stubble, feeding off chaff heaps.

The cattle operation also includes a feedlot, which is mostly utilised for fattening some of the weaner calves.

Although only being 30-60pc full, Luke said cleaning out the dams on the back of last year had put them in a better position for stock water.

"The water we have is good water, whereas the year before we came off some dirtier dams with low water levels," he said.

The next few weeks will be spent weaning the calves in time for the weaner sale at Mt Barker in early January.

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