Widespread rain a confidence booster

Widespread rain a confidence booster

Cropping News
Warralea Poll Merino stud principal Jarrod King said the rainfall had boosted the morale of other farmers and residents in Gairdner and surrounding areas.

Warralea Poll Merino stud principal Jarrod King said the rainfall had boosted the morale of other farmers and residents in Gairdner and surrounding areas.

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Widespread rain a confidence booster

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WIDESPREAD showers have drenched paddocks across Western Australia, with some agricultural regions recording up to four times more rainfall than the same time last year.

Along the south coast at Gairdner, the downpours have boosted confidence, replenished soil moisture and left dams overflowing, after three consecutive dry seasons.

Warralea Poll Merino stud principal Jarrod King said his key dam had filled up for the first time in four years, having already recorded 255 millimetres of rain.

Mr King, a sixth-generation farmer, labelled it "the best" season start he had seen in almost a decade at Gairdner.

He, his wife Chelsea, Chelsea's brother Brett Crabtree and his wife Nathalia, operate a cropping (65 per cent) and sheep (35pc) enterprise, which includes 4500 hectares of wheat, barley, lupins, canola and faba beans and will shear 11,000 sheep this year.

The pair said recent weather conditions were ideal and set them up for a promising season.

"The past three years have been really dry, some of those winds and seasons were topsoil destroying," Mr King said.

"But it has all turned around now and we are back into an above average/normal season.

"Last week we recorded 70mm, that's compared to this time last year when we probably only had 45mm to 50mm in total.

"I think 13mm was our highest rainfall event at one single time last year - they were very sporadic falls."

Taking advantage of the autumn break and favourable conditions, Mr King started seeding on April 5 and was finished by May 10.

Mr King started seeding on April 5 and was finished by May 10. The only changes he made to his cropping program was the reintroduction of faba beans. Picture: Jarrod King

Mr King started seeding on April 5 and was finished by May 10. The only changes he made to his cropping program was the reintroduction of faba beans. Picture: Jarrod King

The only changes he made to his cropping program was the reintroduction of faba beans.

Mr King said it was something they had wanted to grow for a number of years at Warralea, however without moisture they hadn't been able to get them in the ground early enough.

"This year is perfect for faba beans - they are really cranking along nicely," he said.

"We ended up upping our cropping program because of the amount of sheep feed we had.

"We have had a beautiful start, so we slowly started ticking away and now we have it all in and everything has germinated fantastically."

While the dry conditions proved challenging, the Kings decided to keep their sheep numbers up through confinement feeding instead of destocking.

And they are glad they did, as they are reaping the benefits, particularly with WA's sheep market supply and demand issues.

Mr King said his Merinos were "looking fantastic now" and he anticipated lambing percentage would be over 100pc this year.

"They are looking fantastic with big udders of milk and lots of wool on them, which we will be looking for them to cut a bit extra."

Mr King said he hoped the strong season would see farmers retain their breeding ewes or have the opportunity to restock, given the amount of breeding stock that had been trucked over east, after the drought broke in parts of New South Wales and Victoria.

"That is going to be a really good thing for the industry," he said.

"If we can get those ewe numbers back up in WA, then that is going to be fantastic with a widespread season.

"Hopefully with a strong season and lambing percentages people can build their stock numbers back up again."

Mr King added there were also a handful of farmers, who were 100pc croppers and had discussed getting back into sheep farming.

With seeding at Warralea finished, attention has now turned to tailing lambs, before starting broadleaf sprays on cereal crops, as well as general maintenance.

The operation will increase fertiliser application across the crops this year and are already three quarters into their urea program.

"All our grass selectives are done, so that's good with it being quite wet and soggy out there now," Mr King said.

"With a bit of extra crop of course means a bit of extra expenditure in chemicals and fertilisers."

Mr King added that the rainfall had boosted the morale of other farmers and residents in the area.

"Everyone is pretty excited and happy for sure," he said.

"We can keep talking about those few dry years, everyone across the State has their turn.

"But it is always good to see a good widespread rain this time of year.

"There's not too many parts that wouldn't have had a reasonable season this year, so it is fantastic for the industry."

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