Crops spring to life after farm drenched

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeThe West Australian
Rhys Hagboom at Ucarty.
Camera IconRhys Hagboom at Ucarty. Credit: Cally Dupe

Pastures have burst into life at the Hagbooms’ Ucarty enterprise after more than 50mm of rainfall fell during the past two weeks.

Puddles have finally sprung up across the family farm, south of Dowerin, after a dry start to the growing season.

It’s restored confidence in the family-run operation, run by Lindsay and Fiona Hagboom and their sons Klint, 34, Rhys, 28, and Chad, 26.

“The crops that went in, in April, didn’t come up for a long, long time,” Rhys said.

“The way they came out all patchy was quite a concern, but it’s starting to even out.

“Some of the barley was already pushing up a head, it’s been that stressed that it’s thinking, ‘I am getting out of here’.

“I don’t think a lot of young farmers would have experienced a year like this.”

Rhys spent the first 21 years of his life at the farm before moving to Perth to complete a bricklaying apprenticeship.

Some four years later, he returned to Dowerin to work at a neighbouring farm, and this year joined his brothers and parents.

While living in Dowerin, he met his partner Kylee and the pair have two children Ava, 2, and Skye, 1.

The property is between Meckering and Dowerin and includes 2350ha of owned and 566ha of leased land.

Rhys said it had been a strange season so far after summer rain was followed by the driest start to the growing season he’d seen.

He spent last weekend cleaning flooded sheep troughs in soggy paddocks.

“In my 10 years of seeding, it’s been the weirdest sort of start I’ve seen,” Rhys said.

“Last year we had doubled the previous year’s rainfall by April and were getting bogged.

“This year it has been really dry and now there is suddenly water everywhere.

“It’s been a bit strange.”

Production usually includes 1200ha of cropping but was wound back to 220ha of Mace wheat and 120ha of Scope barley this year.

On the farm are also 2000 mated Merino ewes with about 2000 lambs, 1100 dry ewes and 70 rams, producing more than 140 bales of wool a year. About 500 of their dry ewes will be shorn at Perth Royal Show in September.

“With the sheep having a good price this year, the old man was far keener to keep the sheep going,” Rhys said.

“The difference between putting a crop in and risking whether anything was going to grow was too much.

“We still had a chance of getting sheep feed from those paddocks if we didn’t put a crop in.”

The Hagbooms have been rotating their flock across paddocks and recently offloaded about 800 head, mainly a mixture of dry ewes and wethers.

Recent rainfall means pastures will regenerate in coming weeks and reduce the current five-month burden of hand-feeding.

It’s a welcome boost as the town busily prepares for the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days on August 30 and 31.

“With the way the season panned out we weren’t sure whether people were going to buy things,” he said. “But people are definitely excited to go — it’s a good opportunity for farmers to come and see how the season is here.”

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