Be prepared

Farmers urged to strengthen drought response
North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer
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CELEBRATE THE GOOD, PREPARE FOR THE BAD: Ian Hamono, a Tatura farmer, said it was important to prepare for a tough season – especially when the weather is good.

PREPARE.

That’s the lesson to be taken from the current season, according to farmers in the Shepparton region.

All eyes are turned upwards, anxiously waiting for an autumn break to eventuate.

But if rain does not fall, it will be business as usual for Ian Hamono at his Tatura property.

Ian, who runs an irrigated cropping property at Cooma, managed to carry over enough of his water entitlements to see him through the last few months.

In fact, the dry summer currently devastating local dairy farmers has been tolerated with relative ease by Mr Hamono.

“I need rain in the next few weeks for my summer crops to dry down,” he said.

“I’d like a good autumn break to get the next round of crops ready, but it is what it is.”

Mr Hamono has already been allocated 100 per cent of his Goulburn water rights, and said he purchased just 200 meg – paying $390/meg – several months ago.

“I could sense that this was going to be a tough year, so I’ve carried as much over as I could,” he said.

Mr Hamono’s crop program has been so successful, last year he won the irrigated section of the National Maize Competition, using just six megalitres per hectare of water for a 19.54 tonne yield.

Later this month, he will begin again – sowing down canola, followed by wheat, oats and vetch.

“You have to prepare,” Mr Hamono said.

“Do what you can, because not every season is going to be good.”

Simon Wall farms halfway between Shepparton and Benalla at Gowangardie, where his family runs a mixed sheep, beef and cereal operation.

Like Mr Hamono, Mr Wall believes in celebrating a good season, but being prepared for the bad.

Sitting snug under a foot of Wall farm soil are 1200 wet tonnes of silage – buried in 2004 for a drought year.

“We put that aside for when it’s bad,” Mr Wall said.

“We call it ‘the oh s$%t’ pile – and we haven’t opened it yet.”

Valued at around $15,000 when it was buried, the feed is worth more than double that now – and it’s peace of mind.

“It’s not about the money value,” he said.

“It’s being prepared, and knowing you have it sitting there.”

Mr Wall comes from a long line of farmers who believed in fortifying supplies.

In the 1982 drought, his father cleared out and deepened 32 dams.

In the 2000 drought, they did the same again.

“You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think you’ll face a bad year,” Mr Wall said.

This year, Mr Wall cut his canola for hay.

His wheat crop yielded half what it did previously, and calves were sold a month earlier than usual.

Likewise, sheep numbers have tightened – with only the best stock left for breeding.

“We aren’t staring down a barrel though,” Mr Wall said.

“You do what you have to.”

Mr Wall is, in fact, already looking to prepare for the next big dry.

Using an infrastructure grant, he has purchased two grain silos – with the intention of filling them to store for a not-so rainy day.

His pro-active approach is an example of how the government’s current On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support programs can be utilised.

Through it, up to $5000 is available to help farms prepare for dry conditions in Northern and North West Victoria – from purchasing grain silos to creating stock containment areas.

“We’re proud to be supporting farmers through tough seasonal conditions, making sure farms are better equipped to prepare for drought,” Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, said when announcing the package.

If you, or someone you know, needs help dealing with the current season contact Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit ruralfinance.com.au.

More farming news and stories can be read in the April, 2019 print edition of North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer or click here to access digital editions.