All smiles at Dowerin as good crops set scene for good Field Days

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Davey Couper, 9, and Matt Couper, 9, with farm dog Gus in a paddock of lupins at Dowerin.
Camera IconDavey Couper, 9, and Matt Couper, 9, with farm dog Gus in a paddock of lupins at Dowerin. Credit: Countryman

It has been a return to the “seasons of old” in the Central Wheatbelt, with the wettest grain growing season Matt Couper has seen in his “short career of farming” providing plenty of optimism for the months ahead.

With soggy paddocks too wet to be sprayed, Matt has had plenty of time to catch up on maintenance around the 4000ha farm with the airseeder already set up for canola in April.

“We’re trying to be optimistic by having it ready in the shed and set up for canola next year,” he said.

“It helps ahead of next year to know you have checked out the machinery and have it somewhat ready to go for seeding after a big harvest.”

Matt’s nine-year-old son David was quick to tell Countryman that more rain had fallen between January and July than all of last year.

Between 230mm and 275mm of rain has fallen across different parts of the Coupers’ farm since January. The wet weather has been a welcome boost after 40mm of rain in November just at the end of harvest.

The healthy rainfall totals are a stark contrast to last year, when 227mm fell, including 147mm during the growing season between May and August.

The farmers began the year with a 400ha liming program before deep ripping 400ha of the property, and speed tillering about 1000ha. They started seeding on April 22 before finishing on their earliest date ever — June 1 — after improving their seeding setup and staffing.

An opening rain on May 4 with 20mm meant they were wet seeding, and their seeded program was bolstered by 6mm and 21mm on June 10 and June 20.

“Rain-wise, things have been incredible,” Matt said. “Some of the deep ripped country and the hollows are starting to go a bit yellow, which is waterlogging.

“But if you had to be optimistic, a few hectares of yellow crop is not as bad as a whole farm that is not growing that well because of a lack of rain.

“I have never seen a season like it.”

Dowerin farmer Matt Couper with his son Davey, 9, in a lupin crop.
Camera IconDowerin farmer Matt Couper with his son Davey, 9, in a lupin crop. Credit: Countryman

Matt returned to the family farm in 2013, after working for the neighbouring Quartermaine family for about nine years.

Before that, he completed an apprenticeship as a mechanic at the former SW Autos in Dowerin and worked in the industry for four years.

He farms with his aunt and uncle Marg and James Couper and their son — and Matt’s cousin — Steve Couper.

The Coupers have provided plenty of children to the local school, with Matt and his wife Kristel having three children David, 9, MacKinley, 7, and Violet, 4.

Steve and his wife Kristy have four children, Cody, 9, Ciarah, 8, Christopher, 6, and Rowan, 4.

After his father David died in 2005, Mr Couper thought his chances of returning to the farm were slim — with a brother and a cousin also wanting to return home.

“It was up in the air, we were all told from a young age that there wasn’t enough dirt,” Mr Couper said.

“In 2012, I said to James, ‘what is the go’ and he said ‘let’s have a crack at it’, and so we did. We leased some dirt at Yorkrakine and have not looked back since.”

Now, the farmers crop 3400ha at Dowerin after giving up 1000ha of leased land Yorkrakine three years ago.

They also run 200 Merino wether lambs for buying and selling, and have 80 Angus Murray Grey cross Santa Gertrudis cows to sell calves to a local feedlot.

This year’s program included 130ha of Trident canola, 130ha of Bonito canola, 1600ha of Havoc wheat, 480ha of Zen wheat, 510ha of Scope barley, 20ha of Volga vetch, 380ha of Jurien lupins, 70ha of Caliph medic, and 80ha of Dictator 2 forage barley.

The Grain Industry Association of WA’s July crop report has forecast the state’s winter crop at 19.6 million tonnes, inclusive of seed and feed usage.

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