September 14, 2018

It rained 3 weeks ago around Moree. It was very helpful to what little winter crop we have surviving. There was 15-65mm in the district depending on where you sit - you can't pick up your farm & move under the better rain so you take what you get. We call it the open air casino. Everything we do we weigh up the risk, quantify it with the best scientific knowledge available, then make a management decision.

We love it. Bringing our children up under the big sky, as quite often we were brought up. I'm a sixth generation farmer/grazier in the north of NSW. My forebears worked extremely hard all their lives growing corn, oats and potatoes as well as cutting superfine wool and fattening bullocks near Ben Lomond on the Tablelands. It was massive news in the family in the early 1900's when my great grandfather came home with a two furrow plough to replace the single furrow item. Four horses were now required! We will miss a crop now and then or loose cows to drought or calving but if we can grow our children into solid individuals able to contribute positively to our community we know we have had a win. That's the crop we're after!

Back to this season. We have some growers planting summer crop now into the moist topsoil where it has linked up with deeper stored moisture they have worked so hard to preserve through this drought. They are still taking a risk, the soil profile isn't wet right down to a metre as we'd like, but it is wet to 60cm. Are we comfortable with the risk? Not entirely. So we won't plant the whole area intended for summer crop on this rain. We'll put a bit in. We sat down in early August with our growers and went through the current situation. How wet our soil profiles were, the cost of planting & growing the crop, the potential yield outcome with average rain & current prices. We decided together we needed 100-150mm of rain to be confident to plant all our summer crop.

So is it good news we are planting some summer crop? On balance yes it is because it means we've had some rain and we're able to do something to progress our options and pursue sustainable cash flow. We are taking a risk though, however well understood it is, because we are committing to the planting and growing costs of this crop without the full moisture profile we would like to undergird it. We still have our winter crop planting and growing expenses swinging in the breeze with little prospect of a return. This is farming! This year it feels a bit like a game of snakes and ladders and until it rained it had been all snakes. Ladders are good news!


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