Deluge puts brakes on

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Murray James has never seen rain during harvest quite like last week's deluge.

With his son Sam and wife Leonie, he was in the midst of harvesting his biggest program ever on the family's Karlgarin farm, but things have come to an abrupt halt.

Over two days last week 130mm of rain fell across the family's crops, half of which were yet to be taken off.

Laneways and paddocks had water pooling across them and the back wall of a key dam was blown out.

Before the paddocks could dry out enough to begin harvesting again, the heavens dumped another 19mm this Monday.

As Sam drove down a road eroded by the sheer amount of water that streamed across it, the father and son duo said it was now a waiting game to see what damage the rain had done to their wheat.

All of the barley, lupins and oats had been harvested, but the family had only taken off a fraction of their 2290-hectare wheat program. It was shaping up to be a corker of a season, with some of the wheat crops looking to yield nearly three tonne.

Murray admits it's disappointing.

"It would have been averaging around two tonne or maybe a touch better and we were just either side of 10 per cent protein," he said.

"The big unknown now is what it's done to the quality of the wheat and how we're going to go getting back on the ground to get it off.

"We'll probably be stopped now until at least Christmas - some of this land that has gone completely underwater, we don't know how long until we can get back on it.

"The grain will dry out and might be ready but we won't get on the paddocks."It's the fourth year in a row that Mother Nature has thrown a spanner in the works.

"We had a very good year in 2008 and then got really severely frosted and lost about 60 per cent of our crop," Murray said.

"Then 2009 was very dry, last year was the driest year in the history of the area and now we've had this."

But the family are still looking on the bright side of things.

"We've got our dams full of water and it's put a lot of summer moisture in," Murray said.

"It will create an enormous amount of summer spraying now, but we've got 3500 sheep and they'll benefit from a lot of that summer green.

"We've got self-sown barley and oats that are 3cm now."

"We're in a better position than we were last year because at least we've got something to harvest, even if it's going to take a while longer and it might get downgraded," Sam added.

But while green feed is a plus, in the meantime stubble quality has been eroded and barley heads snapped off by high winds a month ago were washed away.

"We don't normally feed sheep this time of year, but we've already got some lick feeders out," Murray said.

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