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Promise ends in frustration

Gareth ThomasCountryman
South Stirling farmer John Howard and son Jack finished their harvest last week after a frustrating end to what started as a promising year.
Camera IconSouth Stirling farmer John Howard and son Jack finished their harvest last week after a frustrating end to what started as a promising year. Credit: Malcolm Heberle

Two large red headers sit side by side at the top of a South Stirling farm, covered in dust and ready for their final wash after another successful harvest.

Like many farmers in the lower Great Southern, John Howard experienced good yields from his canola and barley crops this season, but he said it was a year of “what could have been”.

He said “2016 started with 100mm of rain on January 20 and never looked back really”.

The season was set up perfectly for Mr Howard and looked to be one of the best potential yields he had seen.

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It was the rain, however, that became foe rather than friend for him.

“We had constant rain coming through and a very cold winter,” he said.

“It had a big effect on the final yields because we had half of our program under water for a time and it didn’t have the growth it should have,” he said.

Mr Howard said his 2100ha of crops avoided the frost that wreaked havoc for growers further north, but the consistent rain turned a once-in-a-lifetime crop into just a very good year.

“Tonnage-wise it was right up there but, of course, prices were low — barley is down $50 a tonne from last year,” he said.

“Barley was up around five tonnes per hectare, but the canola was down around one-and-a-half tonne on average.

“But it was set up beautifully to start with, we had the crops in early but just got too wet and too cold — what could have been.”

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