Cutting risk the key for Kirby clan

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Scattered rain in the eastern Wheatbelt earlier this week has cranked up the start of seeding.

Third-generation Beacon farmer Chris Kirby was considering dropping some paddocks off the program last week but he now has other plans.

“The rain was completely out of the blue and we are going to switch back to our original program,” he said.

With 15mm of rain on Monday night, followed by 6mm on Tuesday, Chris said he would now go full steam ahead.

“It’s nice to be seeding into moisture instead of just kicking up dust,” he said. “We will now put the canola in and increase the wheat program.”

After the ups and downs of the past two months, Chris said he did not know which way the weather would go.

“Even though grain prices are expected to be good, if we don’t have any grain to sell, it won’t be any good,” he said.

Chris said the family planned to reduce risk as much as possible.

“We only put in 65 per cent of our program last year, and we have started off with fairly low inputs this year,” he said.

“Most guys around here have put in 30 per cent of the crop dry and then were waiting to see what happened with the weather.”

So far, Chris has seeded 900 hectares of a 3800ha program, but not having any soil moisture he was wary of putting in much more.

He was considering dropping 400ha of canola off the program and changing wheat varieties if it did not rain by the end of May.

“Telfer canola can go in pretty late but with no moisture it would have been a risk,” he said.

Seeding Fortune wheat, Chris said they may change to Magenta, and then Mace if the dry persisted.

He said sheep numbers were critically low and supplementary feeding was crippling their budget.

“If we don’t get much rain by July we will look at selling the hoggets,” he said. “Our sheep numbers are already down 40 per cent on our average.”

Chris said he had confidence in this season.

“We ended up having relatively good crops on such little rainfall last year, so there is hope even if it doesn’t rain” he said.

“And at least we are looking at good prices.”

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