Farmers sing in the rain

Corinna RidgwayCountryman
Farmers sing in the rain
Camera IconFarmers sing in the rain Credit: The West Australian

The wettest July day on record for Adina Grazing has heralded the arrival of 10 days of sought-after rain throughout the Esperance district.

A whopping 88mm recorded on July 7 was cause for celebration for the family business of John and Val Locke, son Rodney and partner Tanya Hill.

The previous record for their Le Grande block - 40km east of Esperance, which they have farmed since new ground beginnings in the 1960s - had been 60mm on July 24, 1990.

Rodney was extremely pleased with rainfall at both the Le Grande block and his Condingup-based land a further 40km east, where the gauge recorded more than 40mm.

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The precipitation was a boon for both the 1800 head of Angus breeders and 2120ha of crop.

Mr Locke said they had received enough rain at the Le Grande Road property for the livestock.

"The crops are looking a lot better. We should be right in Condingup for about three weeks really, it's wet up nicely and there's no waterlogging at all," he said.

The Le Grande block has now almost received half its yearly average of 700mm.

The Lockes' overnight inundation has been the largest single rainfall event recorded in the district for the year.

The precious moisture has been spread far and wide.

Steady falls were welcomed with sighs of relief from producers spanning Munglinup to Beaumont and inland to Salmon Gums.

Gauges have been emptied several times in the past 10 days and tallies for falls have ranged from more than 20mm in Salmon Gums and Cascades, over 30mm in Beaumont, 40mm in Scaddan, to more than 100mm recorded by Locke's Merivale property.

Producers had been struggling after a dry season start was compounded by a lack of subsoil moisture due to minimal summer rainfall.

The lack of early moisture caused dry and delayed seeding as well as feed issues for livestock.

But smiles have returned to many faces and farmers say the rain has been a saviour.

Peter and Wendy Harkness recorded 31.5mm on their Beaumont property since July 7.

"It's been a game changer, now we just need it to keep going," he said.

Mr Harkness said the incredibly dry start in the Beaumont district had taken its toll.

"We've lost about a third of our canola. It was seeded on three or 4mm but there was no rain for three weeks in early May and it just didn't come up," he said.

Mr Harkness said it was too late to re-seed but was still upbeat after the recent falls.

"The cereals aren't bad actually, considering the start," he said.

Salmon Gums brothers Rowan and Gerard Starcevich were quietly pleased after recording about 20mm.

Rowan Starcevich said the rainfall had definitely been nice.

"It's wet everything up again and will keep us going for a bit," he said.

"We did have some subsoil moisture, so it's going to save that a bit - but it would be handy to get some more come end of the month."

Germination of the Starcevichs' 5000ha program had been pretty good with some patchiness in non-wetting sand areas a slight draw back.

Concerns are now focused on stock feed as many producers come to the end of hay and grain stores.

In Cascades, Scott Welke said although the 23mm received would "keep the wolf from the door for another few weeks", it would not solve ongoing feed issues.

Mr Welke said the family business already cleared some older ewes last month in an effort to address insufficient feed.

"We have about 5000 breeders plus lambs on at the moment," he said.

"We have already started early weaning and will finish that next week.

"We have been feeding out fairly constantly - our hay stack's almost finished."

Mr Welke said the crops over the 12,500ha property were looking OK.

"Germination hasn't been too bad, there were some non-wetting sands that have been a bit patchy," he said.

"The crops are probably middle of the road standard-wise, they definitely aren't as flashy as last year."


· *Beaumont *: 30mm

· *Esperance Weather Station *: 110mm

· *Condingup *: 40mm

· *Merivale: * 150mm

· *Munglinup West Weather Station *: 30.4mm

· *Salmon Gums Weather Station *: 21 mm

· *Scaddan *: 40mm

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