Sodden paddocks present challenges

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Rob Davy in a flooded paddock at Wellstead.
Camera IconRob Davy in a flooded paddock at Wellstead. Credit: Cally Dupe

The old adage “when it rains it pours” is ringing true at the Davy family’s Wellstead farm after more than 180mm of rainfall fell in just two weeks.

Rob and Carolyn planned to shear the bulk of their 14,000 sheep last week but plans ground to a halt when the rain put much of the farm underwater.

Most of the couple’s 5500ha of farmland is south-west of Wellstead and has become sodden, with wheat and canola crops heavily waterlogged.

Instead of sending wool to market late last week, Mr Davy spent hours guiding a flock of 2000 ewes out of a flooded paddock onto higher ground.

“I took them on a detour route through a few different paddocks and streams of water,” he said.

“The main road we would usually use was about a metre under water and we needed them closer to the shed for shearing.

“We were a week into shearing and had done 3000 sheep but then the weather came.”

Sheep were driven across the flooded property to higher ground.
Camera IconSheep were driven across the flooded property to higher ground. Credit: Rob Davy

Wellstead has recorded one of the State’s highest rainfall totals for the year to date (746mm), just a shower away from its 2016 rainfall total of 778mm.

Nearby areas Manypeaks (681mm), Gairdner (431mm), South Stirling (499mm) and Bremer Bay (483mm) have all recorded less.

It’s a stark contrast to the northern grain belt where some farmers have started to spray out crops after low growing-season rain.

Up to 8km of the Davy property’s arterial dirt roads have flooded and many that have dried out now feature cavernous holes and haggard edges.

Carolyn and Rob Davy are battling soggy conditions after large rainfall.
Camera IconCarolyn and Rob Davy are battling soggy conditions after large rainfall. Credit: Cally Dupe

Mr Davy said the full extent of crop damage was not yet known but yields could be halved by the water damage.

After bogging the farm’s motorbike last week, Mr Davy said it made sense to “wait it out” rather than risk driving a boom spray on paddocks just yet.

“Our crops have just struggled all year, the sheep have struggled from just being too wet,” he said.

“The feed just starts to get going and then it just drowns.

“Normally we finish harvest well before Christmas but I would be incredibly surprised if we finished before Christmas this year.”

The couple have tentative plans to start swathing canola in two weeks but Mr Davy said it depended on whether the weather held off.

Rob Davy in a flooded paddock.
Camera IconRob Davy in a flooded paddock. Credit: Cally Dupe

“It’s not so much the damage on the farm — we can’t get through or onto paddocks,” Mr Davy said.

“We are hoping that in the month before harvest we will be able to repair the roads so we can get the header through the farm.

“But we might only have to worry about half as much grain this year.”

The main road into Wellstead, South Coast Highway, was still flooded and closed to the west of the town this week.

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