Harvest over at Cunderdin

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

It's been smooth sailing this harvest for Cunderdin father and son team John and Josiah O'Hare.

The O'Hares wrapped up their 2014 harvest late last week, on track with many farmers across the Mid West and Wheatbelt who were putting away their headers for another year.

According to latest CBH receival figures, growers have delivered just over 10.6 million tonnes across all port zones.

Josiah O'Hare said while yields were slightly below what they had hoped, the quality of their wheat, barley and canola had been excellent.

"The yields were certainly in line with our 10-year averages and were also in line with our average water use efficiency," he said.

"Using the French and Shultz water-use efficiency equation we can project our kilograms per millimetre of rainfall, and this year it was pretty much spot on."

The O'Hares' business, which includes Josiah's mother Marion, also runs 900 adult Merino sheep and produces serradella for both grazing and commercial seed sales.

Mr O'Hare said while this year was an early finish it wasn't the fastest harvest the family had experienced, with the drought year in 2010 meaning an exceptionally quick harvest.

But like most farmers, the positive end result didn't come without its seasonal challenges.

"Like everyone, we had numerous challenges. One of the biggest was the lack of summer rain at the start of the year, so we started with a soil nitrogen deficit," he said.

"That meant we had to buy all our yield with nitrogen, since there was almost no nitrogen reserves in the soil. It's cheaper to have summer rain, and to spray the weeds out and then use the nitrogen that the summer rain creates through mineralisation."

Mr O'Hare said the farming business also experienced a difficult lambing period, with very cold weather in late winter and early spring. He said the hard-seeded Margurita variety of serradella was an important part of their cropping rotation.

"In the first year you grow it you have to treat it as a crop to ensure good establishment so there is only room for limited in-season grazing, but you can graze it hard over summer and as you would normally in the second year," Mr O'Hare said

"It's very persistent and even after growing two or three wheat crops, it will regenerate."

A graduate of Marcus Oldham Agricultural College in Geelong, Mr O'Hare said he believed in the importance of gaining an education before returning full time to the farm.

"Education is the one investment that can never go bad. It's with you for life, and gives you all sorts of perspective that you wouldn't get otherwise," he said.

"I learnt a lot of great decision-making tools at Marcus Oldham.

"It gave me an understanding of why we do certain things on the farm.

"You grow up on a farm and you know what and when things happen, but not necessarily why they are important and what drives what we do.

"It also taught me how to accurately measure our profitability analysing the whole package of our system."

CBH Geraldton Zone manager Duncan Gray said 1.8 million tonnes of grain had been received so far in the northern zone with only 50-60,000 tonnes left to come in.

"Most of the bins are now closed, except for Carnamah, Mingenew and the port which are still open but harvest will be wound up by next week, all going well.

"We are just about done," he said.

CBH Kwinana Zone manager Gavin Bignell estimated that more than 5.5 million tonnes would have been received by the end of this week. He said some bins in the northern part of the zone would be closed by Friday.

"By the end of this week we will probably only have about 10 bins open in the Wongan Hills, Koorda and Merredin areas," he said.

"But by the end of the following week we'll be seeing other bins shut along the standard gauge, and potentially a couple in the Corrigin region.

"Quality is still pretty good across the zone, we probably won't see any weather-affected grain until towards the end of harvest."

Mr Bignell said he estimated 6 million tonnes would be delivered in the zone, down on the initial 6.5 million tonne estimates.

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