Season yet to show its hand

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
West River farmer Mark Mudie with farmhand Dave Leech, of Mitiamo in New South Wales, and farm dog Rusty.
Camera IconWest River farmer Mark Mudie with farmhand Dave Leech, of Mitiamo in New South Wales, and farm dog Rusty. Credit: Cally Dupe

Every winter offers its own mystery of what the growing season will bring, with this year no different for farmers at West River.

After floods washed away fences in February 2017, last year was the third-driest year on record at Mark and Elaine Mudie’s property, with crops saved by October rainfall.

But while this year’s growing season rainfall remains a major wildcard at the forefront of their minds, the couple is still staying positive.

“Everyone has been a bit nervous after last year, but most people have still put in their programs,” Mr Mudie said.

“If we don’t get some big rainfall between now and summer, there will be some big problems. It will rain, it always does but it is a real question of when.”

Anticipation has built several times during the past few months but not a lot has eventuated from the rainfall that has fallen north and south of the West River and Ravensthorpe area.

Mark and Elaine farm in partnership, after testing the waters with share-cropping before buying and leasing land in the early 1990s — not long after getting married.

It was a welcome return to farming for Mark, who had always held a passion for agriculture after growing up near Ravensthorpe and spending several years working as a shearer.

Their Mudies’ farming partnership recently extended to include the couple’s son, Nathan, 28, who also works one day a week as an agronomist at Landmark in Ravensthorpe.

For Mark, it is a dream come true to have his son working side by side with him on the farm he and Elaine worked so hard to build.

“It is just great to have him here, he does the spraying, checks the paddocks, does sheep work and maintenance,” Mark said.

The family farms across 5500ha of arable land, with an area set aside for 1200 Merino ewes, which are used for wool and fat lambs.

This year’s program features 4700ha of crop, including canola, wheat and barley, complemented by a small pasture program of vetch and oats.

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