AN above-average season is on the cards for a mixed cropping and sheep farmer in Cadoux, with excellent summer rain providing plenty of subsoil moisture.
Bryce McNamara received more 100 millimetres of rain in February and while the falls for the rest of the year have not been that high, his crops are out of the ground and looking good.
His farm totals 10,000 hectares, 6500 to 7000ha of which is cropping, with seeding this year starting in mid-April and including 4500ha of wheat, 1200ha of barley, 800ha of lupins and almost 200ha of Margurita serradella clover.
The operation also tries to mate between 4500 and 5000 ewes, half to crossbreeds and half to Merinos, depending on the season.
Mr McNamara said they committed to dry seeding their program before the announcement of the Chinese barley tariffs.
"In saying that, our crop rotation, even with the tariffs in place, probably wouldn't have changed," Mr McNamara said.
"Being a mixed enterprise, we can be versatile with our barley and throw it towards our stock as a feed replacement.
"Our number one saying is yield is king, if we can grow it we try not to worry about the prices and keep our costs as low as possible with our pasture rotation and our sheep."
The farm's 10-year yield averages sits around 1.5 tonne for wheat, 1t for lupins and close to 2t for barley, however a lack of rain last year saw those numbers take a dive.
The property didn't receive rain until July and in the end Mr McNamara ended up at least half a tonne under budget yield for 2019.
The 2020 season is looking far more promising, with the farm receiving roughly 40mm in March, 6mm in April, 40mm in May and 30mm in June, on top of the deluge received in February.
"We've managed to fall under most of the 10 to 15mm rainfall events, rather than the 4-5mm that a lot have been getting, but June and July are normally about the 60mm mark, so we're still not at our average rainfall yet," Mr McNamara said.
"The crops are looking good for the amount of rain we've had and we do have subsoil moisture there, but we don't want to call on that until late spring when the season cuts off.
"We'd love for it to stay wet during July, we'd give anything to get a couple of inches of rain, but even if we keep getting the 10-15mm it should be enough to get us across the line."
Despite having a positive season so far, Mr McNamara doesn't like to talk it up too much.
"I've got mates in the Esperance area where they've got no scheme or dam water and they're really struggling," he said.
"I've got other mates 100 kilometres north of here who, unless a miracle happens, they probably won't put a header into their crop.
"We turn a tap on and we've got water because all our farms have scheme water coming from Mundaring Weir, it's an underestimated luxury that we have."
Mr McNamara is a third-generation farmer in Cadoux and has been back on the family property for about 20 years with his wife, Amanda.
He has three children - two attending boarding school at Wesley College and one still at home - while his parents Peter and Trish still live and work on the farm.
"The oldest (child) is showing a huge amount of interest, he's in year 10 and we had a sit down last holiday to work out how much work he'd done and how much he'd get paid," Mr McNamara said.
"I don't put an emphasis on them coming home and working and we don't farm around that happening.
"I'd like to continue to grow and expand the business and if they choose to come home, it'll be ready and waiting for them when they do."
Mr McNamara moved back to the farm in 2001 and did what was, in essence, a 10-year apprenticeship to learn how to run the show.
These days he calls the shots, but his dad is still very involved, operating the boomsprayer, driving a header and helping to bounce ideas.
The McNamaras are also fiercely loyal to their town, with the local shop, Cadoux Traders, receiving 100 per cent of Bryce's business.
"Our chemical is sourced locally and our fertiliser is also through the shop, whether it's CSBP or Summit," he said.
"We don't shop around, I've rung around at the end of the financial year on a few occasions to get quotes and the shop here is always within a few dollars.
"We also do a lot of things ourselves and try to save on labour where we can, that's something the old man taught me, unless you have a go, how are you to know you can't do it yourself?"
Mr McNamara said he stuck close to the same schedule each year, mindful that the price of chemical, fertiliser and machinery creeps up each year.
"Two thirds of our program is north of Cadoux and we generally give it 50 kilograms of urea down the tube, 40kg of MAP (Mono-Ammonium Phosphate) and after that it's generally shut the gate," he said.
"Anything south of Cadoux we will top up with an extra nitrogen boost if the season allows, but this year we haven't done that.
"This year I also went 40kg of urea down the tube because I believe there was a bit of nitrogen in the summer rains and we're trying to save a bit of money after a poor season last year."
When it comes to the sheep operation, about 1500 ewes were sold last year due to the poor season, so the flock dropped in size, but they're back to about 4000 breeders at the moment.
Mr McNamara said they were fortunate that a lot of their neighbours don't have sheep but still have reasonable infrastructure.
"That allows us to run sheep on their property in the summer for a few months which gives our pastures a break," he said.
"We're looking at starting up our sheep feedlot again, we missed out on a big opportunity last year because we had to get rid of our lambs earlier as we didn't have feed for them.
"But we do have a feedlot and we're looking at shifting and expanding it to have another option in the operation as far as income goes."
As far as the crop establishment goes, most of the farm is pretty even and sitting around a decile eight or nine.
While the stress is off a little as there is subsoil moisture, decent falls in July and August are still required to push to above average.
"Our main seeding started in mid-April with cereals, what we thought we were dry seeding managed to germinate and that's the big difference," Mr McNamara said.
"Because we had that subsoil moisture in the ground, it allowed the crops to draw that out and germinate nice and early.
"We're in a good spot but I wouldn't say we're in a great spot, however with the subsoil moisture there and if the 10 to 15mm rain events keep coming, it'll be an above average year."