Croppers make wet bet, despite dry sky forecast

SA seeding started despite dry forecast

Cropping
GO AHEAD: Brinkley Station's Shane Kennett, Neil Ziersch and Jarrad Cheyne started sowing sheep feed last week and were on to cereals this week.

GO AHEAD: Brinkley Station's Shane Kennett, Neil Ziersch and Jarrad Cheyne started sowing sheep feed last week and were on to cereals this week.

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DESPITE a dry forecast for the traditional Anzac Day break, some SA croppers have begun seeding in earnest.

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DESPITE a dry forecast for the traditional Anzac Day break, some SA croppers have begun seeding in earnest, mainly sheep feed or cereals in larger operations.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the season's start was becoming one of the "driest ever" for many regions and does not seem to be abating.

It has forecast some rain for today (Thursday) and tomorrow, but mainly for the Lower South East and only two millimetres at best.

There was some rain recorded in the past week - up to 7mm in the Lower SE at Robe and Mount Gambier and up to 14mm on the West Coast at Elliston and Ceduna.

But for most areas, it barely wet the ground.

It (the rain) has still put a smile on farmer faces - they now know it can rain. - LEIGH DAVIS

Landmark Wudinna sales agronomy manager Leigh Davis, who services Upper Eyre Peninsula, said the Streaky Bay district was also lucky to receive 16-18mm, but surrounding districts had 10mm or less.

"It has still put a smile on farmer faces - they now know it can rain," he said.

"Many have been out stone-rolling paddocks so it has settled the dust."

Mr Davis said the last significant rain in his district was in December.

But he said continuous croppers with big programs started seeding last week, mainly barley and pulses, while some mixed farmers have sown sheep feed.

"The weekend's rain would have activated or semi-activated some of the herbicides they use, which would help them out a bit," he said.

Mr Davis expected the area sown to canola would drop back for a second year, as croppers reduced risk.

The same cannot be said for the higher rainfall areas of the Mid North, according to The Agronomist Pty Ltd principal Jeff Braun.

He expects a "normal amount" of canola will be sown, with some croppers already starting.

Everyone is painfully aware of the time of sowing implications on profitability. - JEFF BRAUN

Mr Braun services the Mid North, northern Yorke Peninsula and Mallee, which only received 1-5mm at the weekend.

He said a few YP farmers had started to sow cereals last week, while Mallee croppers were putting in canola and pulses.

"Those going are mainly larger-scale croppers going by the calendar to ensure they finish by a certain time," he said. "Everyone is painfully aware of the time of sowing implications on profitability."

In the SE, Elders Naracoorte agronomist Jason McClure said seeding had not really started, only a bit of sheep feed.

"Broadacre croppers will probably only start thinking about getting started after Anzac Day, depending on the forecast," he said.

"I don't expect to see much of a change to rotations, as it is still too early. But if it stays dry for another fortnight, then that may change."

Brinkley Station workman Shane Kennett was out last week sowing sheep feed at Cooke Plains.

Brinkley Station workman Shane Kennett was out last week sowing sheep feed at Cooke Plains.

Sowing through despite dry at Brinkley Station

SEEDING is well under way at Brinkley Station, Wellington East, with sheep feed sown last week and cereals this week.

Brinkley Station farm overseer Neil Ziersch said despite the dry conditions, they have had to continue seeding regardless because of their large 3300-hectare cropping program.

This year, they are sowing Scepter and Yitpi wheat, Compass and Spartacus barley, vetch, medic and some triticale.

"We are putting in a little more this year, increasing our sheep feed to renovate pastures," he said.

"We sowed about 500ha of sheep feed on our better country at Cooke Plains last week, where there seemed to be underground moisture.

"But we have gone onto Compass barley this week because of the optimal sowing window."

Mr Ziersch said they have only received about 18.5 millimetres of rain since December, when they had about 22mm.

This includes 1.5mm on Easter Sunday, which he said barely settled the dust.

"The last time I saw it this dry was possibly in 1967, but the wind has been way worse this year," he said.

"The ongoing dry is concerning so we may consider stopping if the paddocks are better to be held off for sheep feed."

Mr Ziersch said 2018 was a reasonable year, with barley going 1.5 tonnes/ha and wheat 1t/ha, considering the dry end to the season.

"Our country is fairly reliable being close to the coast, we generally always reap something," he said.

They also cut a lot of hay, which has helped their 5500 Merino ewes get through to lambing, which is under way, plus withdrawing feed barley from storage at Viterra.

RELATED READING: BOM forecasts 50:50 for rain in three-month outlook

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