Crops faring well near Young but farmers desperate for rain

David McMillan's paddock of kittyhawk grazing wheat has withstood the lack of winter rain thanks to the 270mm of rain Young received earlier in the year. He's pictured with Elders Young agronomist Mick Marchant.
David McMillan's paddock of kittyhawk grazing wheat has withstood the lack of winter rain thanks to the 270mm of rain Young received earlier in the year. He's pictured with Elders Young agronomist Mick Marchant.

Lush green paddocks give an indication farmers close to Young are travelling well this winter.

Many farmers cleverly utilised big rainfalls at the beginning of the year, taking the opportunity to sow grazing crops such as oats, wheat and canola.

About 270mm of rainfall fell in Young before April providing sufficient subsoil moisture for the crops to establish despite a lack of winter rain.

The strategy has benefited farmers like David McMillan, Mt Qamby, Young, and many others across the district, allowing them to graze sheep or cattle, as pastures are still lacking.

Following the rain event, Mr McMillan swiftly sowed oats, wheat and canola.

Still a few weeks out from locking up the crops, he's now weighing up the option to continue to harvest, or keep his 1100 sheep on and "graze the paddocks out".

"When there's only potential of making hay or a small crop, the value of stock is probably worth more," he said.

Farmers like David close to Young are more fortunate than their counterparts in north-west parts of the district.

Paddocks filled with green, robust looking crops aren't as common near Grenfell, Bribbaree, and Quandialla.

Elders Young agronomist Michael Marchant explained that these places missed the abundance of rain received closer to Young early this year.

Elders Young agronomist Michael Marchant in a paddock of oats at a property near Quandialla, showing areas north-west of Young aren't as fortunate as near Young.

Elders Young agronomist Michael Marchant in a paddock of oats at a property near Quandialla, showing areas north-west of Young aren't as fortunate as near Young.

This resulted in less subsoil moisture, so a lack of winter rain is having a bigger impact.

Data from the Burea of Meteorology shows Quandialla received 180mm of rain in comparison to 270mm at Young Airport between January and March at the beginning of the year.

"It is not a normal season. Young's lucky enough to be in a higher altitude and picks up a little bit more of those rainfall events coming through from those pretty intense southerly's," Mr Marchant said.

"You only have to move out 50km north-west of Young and things are quite desperate in regards to crops.

"We need something this month, September and October and that will probably come in the form of storms.

"They (farmers) are pulling back, they just haven't had enough rain," Mr Marchant added.

Mr Marchant said there's some "calculated risks" farmers will consider if substantial rain falls in coming months.

"What we did last year we took a few opportunities with a few customers, calculated a risk obviously, and it was a benefit. Some actually harvested hay," he said.

He added that planning summer weed spraying regimes is important in order to conserve soil moisture that comes from rain events similar to the beginning of 2019, also looking at grazing alternatives such as summer forage crops is crucial if opportunities present.

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