Season is one for the ages

Brad ThompsonCountryman

Veteran farmer Bob Iffla has seen all sorts of seasons over the decades, but this one is something out of the ordinary.

Thanks to record-breaking rain there are swans in his paddocks, his ewes are so full of milk he reckons they look like dairy cows and he could produce the biggest grain crop of his lifetime.

Another soaking from the top to bottom of the Wheatbelt to end June even has some farmers in the south worried about too much rain.

Mr Iffla, who farms with his wife Eileen, son Brad and daughter Kerry near Lake King, couldn’t be happier.

“It has been a wet year, but it is excellent,” he said. “We have unbelievable sheep feed, clover like we’re never seen before.

“It looks a million dollars at the moment but we need to take a deep breath because things could go wrong.

“It couldn’t be better for stock and cropping-wise it is exceptionally good in most areas.”

Department of Agriculture and Food WA records for nearby Newdegate show there has been more than 378mm of rain since last November with the figure for the four-month period to March 31 the highest in more than 30 years.

Mr Iffla's farm usually carries about 20,000 sheep. With lambs on the ground now, the numbers have swelled towards 30,000.

“The ewes are so fat and have big bags of milk like dairy cows,” he said.

The 70-year-old was 17 with no parents to back him up and nothing to his name when he arrived in the district to work as a farmhand.

He learnt a lot from his years as a farmhand, went shearing, put in his first crop as a share farmer in 1969 and didn’t own land until 1980.

Mr Iffla nows owns 22,000ha and earlier this year was honoured by WAFarmers for his huge contribution to the industry.

Eileen had been with him every step of the way since they married in 1971 and he urged young farming families to work through the tough times.

“It is just unreal what you can do if you have a dream,” he said.

“It is like playing footy really. It is good if you can whack it down the centre straight to the full-forward and kick a goal but a lot of time you have to go backwards, forwards, sideways and everywhere else. You will get there if you try hard enough.”

Mr Iffla said it was good time to be a grain grower after three good seasons for many in the Wheatbelt, and with Australia’s biggest farming co-operative declaring WA on track to break harvest records later this year. WA’s grower-controlled CBH is preparing to build extra storage space for a crop that could top 17 million tonnes.

Farmers in the central and eastern Wheatbelt have described the season as the best they could wish for and northern parts are catching up fast after a slow start.

But CBH chairman Wally Newman said one cloud on the horizon in some areas was too much rain.

Mr Newman said some farms were waterlogged and crops turning yellow in parts of CBH’s Albany and Esperance port zones.

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