Fair winds favour the Crees family

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The Crees family, farming near Merredin, consider themselves a lucky bunch.

Rodney - better known as Mark - his wife Margaret, brother Glenn and his wife Kylie, and Glenn and Rodney's parents Syd and Nell, run two properties near Merredin.

The family farms at 2020-hectare property Dulebanyundy, 30km east of Merredin and 6000ha Collgar Downs, 15km east of Merredin.

This year they sowed 3335ha of wheat, 800ha of barley, 240ha of oats and 125ha of lupins.

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Mark said the season was shaping up to be above average, after about 250mm of growing season rain.

"During the growing season, we had about 10 inches," he said.

"We had 30mm in January, then nothing until the season break in May.

"We had a bit of a dry spell, then a fair bit in August and September."

He said the family would double its tonnages compared with 2010, when about 150mm of rain fell all year.

"Last year we were well below average, but we did get our grain in the bin," he said.

"We delivered about half of what we normally do. It was a bad year but we did well to get out of jail."

The Creeses were fortunate enough to have all their hay in the shed before it rained this October.

"We had about 38mm in early October, but we cut and bailed our hay before the big rain came," Mark said.

"Some of our crops were still green when we got that rain and they benefited."

They started their grain harvest on November 5 with lupins.

"The lupins went about 1.8 tonnes per hectare," he said.

"We did barley next, which went at 2.3 tonnes per hectare."

He said lupins and barely were well above average.

About 80 per cent into the wheat program, Mark said wheat yields were close to 1.8 tonnes per hectare.

"Wheat yields have been just above average," he said.

He said the harvest rains had some impact on the quality of his wheat, with most going through as ASW.

"It has brought our quality and protein down a bit," he said.

"We haven't had any problems with sprouted grain and haven't had to do falling numbers tests.

"Protein has been about 8.5 to 9.5 per cent."

He said the family would use CBH's load optimisation system to bring some of their loads up to APW.

Mark said the sheep enterprise, of 2500 breeding Merinos and 400 crossbreds, was lucrative this year.

"Our sheep really came through for us," he said.

"We averaged $100 a head this year for wether lambs, which was excellent. The crossbred lambs averaged about $120."

Mark said high wool prices were also a positive for the family. He said flock numbers would remain the same going into next year.

The Creeses are also part of the Collgar Wind Farm, with 25 turbines on their property.

Mark said the project was a crucial part of the family's income.

"We've got another string to our bow, which gives us some handy income," he said. "It was like winning lotto, because it just came out of the blue."

The family received its first payment for the wind turbines this year and secured income for at least the next five years.

Mark said the project didn't interfere with his farming activities and was "very worthwhile".

The Creeses expect to be finished harvest next week. Mark said on Tuesday that this week's rains had not had an impact on his crop.

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