Hay pays at Mukinbudin

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

In what is being hailed as one of the best years for cutting hay across the Wheatbelt, the Smith family from Mukinbudin has waved goodbye to the last of their 4100 bales for the season.

But while the end result has been cause for celebrations, the process was less than easy, according to Blake Smith, who says high sugar levels in the oats made baling a major challenge.

"The last truck has left , and yes, it's certainly a good feeling," he said.

"Its been a tough baling process because the high sugar content in the plant kept gumming up the baler, and in some cases, we could only bale for one or two hours before having to stop and clean out the machine.

"I had to keep reminding dad that that this is a good thing, because it was frustrating for a while there."

Mr Smith, who farms with his partner Benita Moir, his dad Paul, and Paul's wife Serena, said the hay quality, as a result of the increased plant sugars, was excellent.

He said at $250 to $300/tonne the hay would be his most profitable crop on the farm this year.

"Hay is well and truly our most profitable crop, easily beating wheat and barley," he said.

"We are averaging just over 5t/ha for hay, and we think the wheat will go around 2t/ha, and the barley a little bit more than that."

This year, the business planted 700ha of oats, 1800ha of wheat, 1600ha of barley, 200ha of canola and 150ha of lupins.

And with 350mm of rain so far this year, the crops are looking better than average.

While Carrolup oats are dual purpose, Mr Smith said the harvested grain from the eastern Wheatbelt often didn't make milling grade.

"Right up until the end of July we didn't know whether we would be cutting for hay or not, given the milling oat price, but Carrolup needs moisture all the time and we didn't get that finishing rain in the end and weren't confident that the grain would go milling grade," he said.

"Around here it's shaping up to be one of our better years, but if we had had finishing rains in September we would have been looking at our best year ever," he said.

The Smiths, who farm between Mukinbudin and Bencubbin, have been growing oaten hay since 2010.

"We have a lot of light country that wasn't really growing much apart from ryegrass, so we wanted to try and get on top of that, and we thought that by putting in hay and cutting it early we would be able to manage those weeds," Mr Smith said.

He said the strategy had all but wiped out the ryegrass population in those paddocks.

He said he would be considering the new short season oat variety WA02Q302-9 for 2017 planting.

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