York farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Sara with their daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) and Isabelle (20 months) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian

Seeding 2021 — York farmers reducing hay and upping canola

Main Image: York farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Sara with their daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) and Isabelle (20 months) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

Email Shannon Verhagen

The paddocks of the Chipper’s York property will be a lot more golden than last year come spring as they increase canola plantings by 50 per cent off the back of summer rain and favourable prices.

Third-generation farmer Simon Chipper — who crops 3000ha and runs 1100 Merinos with his wife Sara and parents Chris and Melody — will be putting 900ha in this year, up 300ha from 2020.

It will bring canola, wheat and barley plantings into a roughly one-third split in their rotation, which also includes 200ha of lupins and 75ha of hay.

“The canola pricing for this coming season is really good,” he said.

York farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Sara with their daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) and Isabelle (20 months) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian
Camera IconYork farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Sara with their daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) and Isabelle (20 months) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

It comes as their foray into the export hay market was cut short by looming uncertainty over the Chinese export market and predicted low prices. They are dropping hay plantings by almost 80 per cent from 350ha to just 75ha this season.

“We’d always done hay for the domestic market but in the last two years we looked into exporting,” Mr Chipper said.

“This year we’ve dropped our hay program off significantly.

“We made the decision when the exporters were telling us (about China)...and the top-grade price was going to be below the bottom-grade price of last year.”

Mr Chipper last week began their canola plantings after their seeder arrived, but has since paused for a few days to wait for the ground to dry out.

“We’re worried about getting a false germination so we’ll wait a few days and then start dry-seeding,” he said.

Once canola is finished, they will move onto wheat and barley, lupins and hay.

While running the farm with his wife, parents and a couple of staff, Mr Chipper has also got three keen helpers in his daughters Emma, 6, Macey, 3, and Isabelle, 20 months, who love to put on their boots and high-vis and help out where they can.

“They can’t get enough of the place,” he said.

York farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Saras’ daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian
Camera IconYork farmers Simon and Sara Chipper are one of the first farms in WA to start seeding their 2021 crops. Pictured are Simon and Saras’ daughters Emma (6), Macey (3) at their farm at York. PIcture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

The past couple of years have been those of extremes, with Mr Chipper calling 2019 “probably our worst year,” but their 2020-21 yields “probably our best” after well-timed rainfall led to a record-breaking harvest across the State.

He is hoping this year will mirror the last, with summer rain and good prices having the potential for another great harvest.

In March’s thunderstorm — during which some growers received more rain in three days than their entire 2020 growing season — Mr Chipper’s property received “about 5 inches” of rain.

However, the remnants of cyclone Seroja did not deliver what he had hoped, and he was hopeful follow-up rain was on the cards in a few weeks time.

“We only had about 12mm out of the cyclone — so it was good but it wasn’t enough,” he said.

“We were hoping for 20-30mm, that would’ve been ideal.”

“Hopefully we get another reasonable rain in early May — that would probably set us up pretty well.”