Irish "gun" helps with bonus crop

Kate PollardCountryman

A once-only opportunity has seen Ongerup mixed farmers Rob and Kylee Hooper put in their biggest ever cropping program of 11,000 hectares.

The one-year lease and share-cropping venture is more than double their usual 5000ha program.

The green light was given in April and required all hands on deck to organise chemical, fertiliser, seed and staff.

In their favour, they had just upgraded from a 49-foot Ausplow Deep Blade System (DBS) E Series to an 80ft W Series DBS 325-75 on 13-inch tine spacings with a 28,000-litre DSB air cart.

Mr Hooper had seen a demonstration prototype bar in Miling two years ago and said he was keen to upgrade for extra width.

"We were just hoping to put in our 5000ha program a lot quicker than what we have done in the past," he said.

"And because we already had the machine when this option came up, we decided to take it on."

The Hoopers are hoping the once-only chance will allow them to catch up after four tough years.

On paper, by maximising the use of their existing equipment, the figures were favourable for the lease/share farm agreement.

In 2011, they upgraded their seeding tractor to a John Deere 9630 on tracks in preparation for the new bar.

With the opportunity coming up suddenly, Mrs Hooper had some reservations.

"My biggest concern at the time was we were just about to use a new piece of equipment and should we really be taking on a bigger program? But it's worked out," she said.

Before replacing the old system, the Hoopers thoroughly researched the topic.

"We talked about having two set-ups to put the crop in and that meant two drivers or possibly four if we wanted to go 24 hours," Mr Hooper said.

"In the end we decided an 80ft bar and one great operator was more beneficial."

Despite teething problems with the new bar, their gun operator, Michael McKennedy, was an integral part of making sure things ran smoothly.

Mr McKennedy, a keen John Deere devotee from Ireland, was sourced through Rural Enterprises.

"We are doing everything we can to keep him and are in the process of sponsorship," Mr Hooper said.

The two-month seeding program was also pulled off at short notice with help from David Hull, of Landmark Gnowangerup, who helped with a seriously big 'changing order' and agronomist Graham Laslett, of Combined Agronomic Service, Jerramungup.

The owners of the share-farm also helped with seeding, which started on May 10 and finished, as luck would have it, on the Hoopers' wedding anniversary - July 3.

"The crops are as good as they can possibly be and we are about three weeks later than my ideal with seeding, rainfall and crop growth but they are germinating well," Mr Hooper said.

"The canola is starting to move along a bit now and we are half-way through doing our grass selective and spreading urea.

"The barley is going really well and the wheat was the last sown so it hasn't been in very long but is going surprising well."

The Hoopers aim to forward-sell half of their expected yield, depending on price spikes before harvest.

To maximise use of their equipment, the Hoopers also run Blythswood Transport for bulk transport locally and for freight into the Pilbara.

But none of what they have achieved would have been possible without the opportunity his parents, David and Dianne, gave him, Mr Hooper said.

"My father got his start through shearing and buying small blocks," he said. "It's all been built up through mum and dad's hard work."

Fast facts *

Who: Rob and Kylee Hooper, Blythswood

Where: Ongerup

What: Mixed farming

Planted: 4600ha of canola (Crusher, Beacon and Tanami), 3600ha of wheat (Cascade, Mace (AH) and Camm (APW)), 2800ha of barley (Baudin (malt) and Hindmarsh (feed)) and 60ha of lupins (Mandelup) for sheep feed

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