Farm joy at dam good rain

Bob Garnant and Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Farmers in the southern Wheatbelt have been delighted with the recent rains that have filled empty dams, with some even saying it was too much of a good thing.

With falls of up to a record 300mm over three days last week, it did not take long for dams to overflow, taking away the dread of carting water for the rest of summer.

At South Bokal, Tim Buller, who farms with his parents Chris and Estelle, said most of their near empty dams were filled to capacity after receiving 236mm and 300mm at their two properties.

During the peak of the storm, Mr Buller had a near miss driving his ute across a farm gully washout that almost carried both vehicle and driver off the beaten track.

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"The water was very deep and moving very quickly," he said.

"The positive is our previous low dam water levels are no longer a problem - we were quite pleased about that.

"This storm activity should also provide some good subsoil moisture, but we expect to begin spraying heavily for weeds as a result."

The Bullers run a 70-30 crop and sheep program and had to put off shearing, but that may have been a godsend.

"The sheep, although in need of some hand feeding now, are all fine because they were in full wool to help them weather the storm," Mr Buller said.

"The problem now is getting on to the boggy paddocks."

Michael and Kate Johnston, who run 5000 sheep on their South Bokal properties, also were grateful for the plentiful dam water, but were concerned about erosion damage.

"We have had an extensive washout of good topsoil and are still measuring the damage," Mr Johnston said.

Huge craters were visible on the Johnstons' property where water travelled with great speed and force.

The Johnstons also had to delay shearing and their full-wool sheep were also undaunted by the downpour.

"Road closures prohibited us from checking on our other property, which is low lying, and sheep there would have been lacking in feed," Mr Johnston said.

_Countryman _ followed up with both farmers one week after the storms and with some fence standing work completed, all was getting back to normal.

"Unfortunately, other areas of WA are now copping rising flood water," Mr Johnston said.

Planfarm consultant Eric Hall, based in Narrogin, said farmers in the dry areas around Darkan and Williams had gone from having virtually dry dams to dams that were overflowing.

Some banks had even burst because of the heavy summer rains, and other damage included erosion and washed-away fences.

"There has been too much rain for some, but it has solved the water problems," Mr Hall said.

"Depending on how well farmers have managed their catchments, this could set them up for two years, provided the next year's rainfall is around average."

Mr Hall said although water problems have been resolved for many, the heavy rains had damaged what dry feed and stubble remained, meaning farmers would need to hand-feed sheep.

He said cropping farmers would welcome the subsoil moisture.

"Any subsoil moisture we can get at this time of year is beneficial, as long as it's well managed," Mr Hall said.

"It is important to get on top of the weeds and get them sprayed. It will create more expenditure for those who have already done this once, but on balance this type of rain is very welcome and the benefits of this moisture should outweigh the additional spraying costs."

Meanwhile, near Corrigin, Garrick Connelly said he received 86mm for January, filling all six of his dams for the first time since 2006.

His farm's January rainfall included 25mm that fell within 15 minutes on Monday. Other rainfall had delivered about 10mm to 12mm at a time. More rain was forecast in his area for Saturday.

"It means we will need to spray for summer weeds, but after all these dry years you never knock back this rain and it's very welcome," Mr Connelly said.

Mr Connelly said although pastures were damaged, paddocks with stubble were starting to turn green because of germination of remnant wheat and barley seeds.

He said this would provide some valuable sheep feed and expected to stop hand-feeding shortly.

Social media was buzzing with news of the rain.

The WA Wheatbelt Rainfall Reports Facebook page listed falls of 118mm at Gnowangerup on Wed-nesday last week, while 98mm was recorded at north Kalgarin for the week to Tuesday morning.

Further widespread rain was forecast for later in the week.

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