Storm front a stock feed saviour

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Cookernup farmer Chris Hayes, right and his brother Ben, happy at recent rain.
Camera IconCookernup farmer Chris Hayes, right and his brother Ben, happy at recent rain. PICTURE NIC ELLIS THE WEST AUSTRALIAN Credit: THE WEST AUSTRALIAN

The grass is green and puddles are fresh at brothers Chris and Ben Hayes’ dairy farm at Cookernup, 13km north of Harvey.

The pair’s 20ha of grazing oats and 400 head of Holstein cattle received a drenching this week as a strong cold front moved across southern WA.

Monday’s 37mm downpour was a welcome turn after what Chris said was a relatively dry first half of the year at the 250ha property.

At the Cookernup farm are both brothers, their father Malcolm and dairy manager Murray Larson.

Chris said the property ran out of silage three weeks ago after receiving almost no rain in May and the majority of June.

But the farm recorded almost 300mm in July.

“July just suddenly took a huge turn and we hope that will continue. Before that we were just feeding grain and hay flat out,” Chris said.

“We’re on our first lot of grazing on oats now, usually we would be on our third.

“The rain is great, but the cold weather has stunted the grass growth a bit.”

Southern parts of WA, fortunate to receive solid July rainfall after a drier-than-average May and June, were not the only areas to receive rain this week.

Parts of the eastern grain belt, where crops are struggling to germinate through a dry spell, received of rain, easing the nerves of many farmers.

The dry conditions recently caused NAB to wind back its national wheat crop forecast, to 23.3 million tonnes.

Bureau of Meteorology weather services acting manager Bradley Santos said recent rainfall was caused by a cold front which moved through southern WA.

“The front produced some light to moderate rainfall through northern and eastern parts of the south west land division,” he said.

“But the falls really were heavier the further south and further west you went.”

In the 24 hours from 9am Monday, previously parched areas had welcome falls: Geraldton had 9mm, Morawa 4.8mm, Carnamah 4.8mm, Coorow 10mm, Dalwallinu 10mm and Watheroo 13mm.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development integrated farming systems manager David Ferris said many farmers would still be feeding stock.

“The rain is not (an) immediate reprieve but it still means there will be some biomass come up,” he said.

“Because conditions are cold, growth rates will be slow.

“Farmers in north-eastern areas need to retain dry matter on the ground to prevent wind erosion come summer.

“But they will also want to use that ground cover to feed their stock.”

Mr Ferris said the conditions were favourable in the southern central and south-eastern grain belt.

“The recent rain will really lift yield potential in those areas,” he said.

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