THE reliability and climate suitability of the South East for the Westminster barley variety have been two of the major drawcards for Japanese brewer Sapporo, which is sourcing increasing amounts of barley for its beer from the regions' growers, including Frances grower Simon Teate.
Mr Teate's contract was made through the Australian Wheat Board, which finds suitable conditions and willing growers to supply Sapporo with the Westminster variety.
In the case of Mr Teate, his barley is delivered into TE Storage and Logistics at Naracoorte, where it is sampled for protein and test weights to make sure it meets Sapporo's high quality expectations.
"That's where it's stored and then it has to stay there for six months for it to come out of hibernation before they can malt it," Mr Teate said.
"The barley has got be between 9.5 per cent and 12.5pc protein. The test weight has to be above a certain level and obviously there's a tolerance on weeds and other cereals."
Mr Teate, who farms with wife Sarah and their children Loulou, Isabel and William, said Westminster is the sole barley variety they grow, sowing 100 hectares to 180ha a season, depending where they are placed in their broadacre cropping rotation.
Their enterprise comprises 400ha of broadacre cropping, with wheat, oats and beans the other crops grown.
They also utilise 200ha of centre pivot irrigation for both pastures and crops.
Pastures are used to feed their 6000 crossbred and Merino ewe flock, as well as their 200 Angus and black baldy breeding catlle.
Mr Teate said Westminster had proved to be a low maintenance, yet high-yielding variety at their property, which has an average rainfall of 550 millimetres to 600mm.
"We sow it and then it's pretty much up to the season," he said.
"You can feed it as much as you want to try and get the yields up, but the more you feed it, the more protein it's going to have. If you get above that 12.5pc protein Sapporo don't want it.
"You can get good yields with minimal inputs. You can average 4.5 tonnes/ha to 5t/ha easy enough."
Mr Teate said they were on-track for those kinds of barley yields this season and were expecting good quality, with below-average rainfall preventing any waterlogging.
Mr Teate said it was a thrill to see the Sapporo beer brand and know their barley had been used in the product.
The connection with Sapporo was solidified recently when he received a visit from Sapporo's lead barley breeder Ryouichi Kanatani, who met with Lower SE growers to inspect crops and get an insight into local production practices.
"I think they're attracted to the climate that suits Westminster and the reliability of the area for growing barley," Mr Teate said.
Lucerne hay a visual winner
AS WELL as supplying top-notch barley to international brewers, the Teate family, Coronary Park, Frances, grow award-winning lucerne hay.
The South East producers had the best lucerne visual appearance score at this year's Feed Central National Hay Quality Awards, which were decided in August.
Simon Teate said lucerne hay could be a frustrating proposition at times, due to the need to get moisture levels spot on and the sometimes small window afforded for cutting, but all factors aligned for their winning cut.
"Getting the moisture right in lucerne hay is vital," he said. "It's got to be below a certain moisture level otherwise people won't buy it because it'll self-combust and start fires.
"Once it starts flowering, all the protein will start moving to the flower, instead of the leaf and the stem.
"If you start to see a bit of flower you've got to cut it.
"The winning hay was a nice colour and had good conditions for curing and baling.
"There was no colour loss and the steaming machine our contractor uses makes good hay."
Mr Teate is approaching harvest and expects yields of up to 5 tonnes a hectare from his wheat and barley on 340 millimetres rainfall.
"Towards the end of spring we were lucky to jag a couple of rains which helped out a lot," he said.
"Traditionally a dry year here is better for cropping than an average year."