In clover, but not out of woods

Claire TyrrellCountryman

It has been a sporadic start to seeding for the Ayres family, of Northampton, as they wait on a proper break to the season.

Brian and Rachel Ayres and their children Alexandra, 10, and Oliver, 7, run a 2600-hectare farm 16km north-east of Northampton.

Rainfall events have been few and far between for their farm this year, with bouts of 9mm in January, 5.5mm in April and 4mm this month.

The family started seeding last Thursday with 150ha of Dalkeith clover. Brian said clover was useful for reducing weed burden and providing sheep feed.

"We run 1500 Merino breeding ewes mated to crossbreds," he said.

"We use clover in our sheep system. Every year we drop a paddock out and sow it to clover.

"We find that putting those paddocks through a pasture phase gives a lot of feed value and is a good tool for weed control."

Storms over the weekend didn't deliver as much rain as Brian hoped they would get but he said he wasn't worried yet.

"We only got 4mm in total over the weekend, so we were a bit disappointed," he said.

"The traditional break is around May 22, so we are not too stressed.

"It is still early days."

The family sowed half their canola program dry on Sunday and will wait until they can get a knockdown to sow the remaining 100ha.

"We've done half our canola program but we've stopped now and we'll see what happens," Brian said.

"We are hoping we will get a bit of germination of weeds out of the rain, in paddocks where we haven't disturbed the soil."

Brian pulled up on Monday to wait for a germination of weeds. A further 3mm fell on the farm on Monday evening, which Brian said should encourage a germination.

He planned to sow wheat towards the end of this week, 300ha of which he was willing to sow dry.

"On most of our paddocks we try to get a knockdown before seeding," he said.

"If it doesn't rain, we'll sow 300ha of our wheat dry but then we will just wait and see."

He said he would probably start on lupins next week, followed by the rest of his canola program.

Brian said it was a different picture this time last year when the soil was wet.

"The ground is so dry this year that when you get 4mm events, it just goes," he said.

Brian said his sheep enterprise was still benefitting from the wet 2011.

"Last year was an exceptional year - we had more feed than we've had in the 12 years we have been on the farm," he said.

Last season was one of their best years - a 3.5t/ha average on wheat, 1.9t/ha on canola and 2.5t/ha for lupins.

Brian plans to finish seeding by the first week of June this year.

Fast facts *

_WHO: _Brian and Rachel Ayres

_WHAT: _ 1050ha wheat, 520ha lupins, 200ha canola and 150ha clover

_WHERE: _ Northampton

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