Catching confidence at Cunderdin

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David Beard, of Cunderdin, with his kelpie Milo.
Camera IconDavid Beard, of Cunderdin, with his kelpie Milo. Credit: Cally Dupe

Cunderdin’s David Beard is one of many farmers watching the weather while planning his seeding program this year.

The grain grower, who farms with his brother Robert, said the pair recorded 90-150mm across the 4000ha Watercarrin property earlier this year.

He said they had finished liming, soil testing and spraying in recent weeks and, while the February rain was early, it was “almost expected” these days.

“Generally we would like to go through a summer without any rain at all ... but it’s just about a given that we have a summer rain now,” he said.

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“We like to leave the spraying as late as we can so we can get away with only spraying once or twice, rather than three or four times.

“Last year was an exceptional year, in terms of rain, so we sprayed almost twice, but some people did at least three times.”

The Grain Industry of Western Australia expects canola plantings to rise by 20 per cent in some areas, while oat and barley plantings fall this year.

Releasing its 2017 crop report this week, GIWA said confidence was high and farmers hoped to repeat early sowing opportunities of last year.

The report said sub-soil moisture lingering from rainfall earlier could mean dry-sowing canola posed less risk compared to previous years.

Despite sluggish prices and a global wheat glut, the GIWA forecast said wheat plantings would be average.

GIWA estimated 4,448,000ha of wheat, 1,268,000ha of barley, 1,211,000ha of canola and about 260,000ha of oats.

The Beard family has been farming at Cunderdin for four generations, incorporating wheat, barley, lupins, and canola into their cropping program.

The brothers follow a “fairly set” program most years and Mr Beard agreed there could be more canola across WA this year.

GIWA estimates canola plantings will increase 5.1 per cent compared to last year, to 1,211,700ha across the State.

“Canola is an opportunity crop, if we don’t get rain until the middle of May we may cut it back,” Mr Beard said.

“We have a plan in place but that could change three or four times before we plant in April.”

The Beard brothers were looking forward to having another pair of hands on the farm this year.

Robert’s son, Cale, has moved to Cunderdin with his wife, Diane, and Mr Beard joked this meant he could “go on holidays more”.

“It’s been Robert and I for about three years, Cale has been coming home for seeding and harvest during the busiest times,” he said.

Mr Beard and wife Helen live at Watercarrin, where they raised their three now-adult children, Jason, Stacey and Kelsey.

Watercarrin lost about 25 per cent of its wheat crop and up to 50 per cent of its barley crop to frost last year.

Mr Beard said it was unfortunate his property was affected, but farming always had its ups and downs.

“We all talk about the future of farming but its a bit of an unknown,” he said.

“We can only do what we do best and see what happens from there.”

To read the report, visit giwa.org.au.

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