Growers drive to make ends meet

Reports by Claire TyrrellCountryman

In a normal season, Kevin Penrose, of Mukinbudin Transport, runs three or four trucks but this year he has needed 10.

To make up the numbers he sought the help of some growers and their rigs, who had little of their own grain to cart.

"We are all having a good season at Mukinbudin and the poor bastards in Southern Cross are only 80km away and they've got hardly any grain," Kevin said.

"This is a way for them to make some income."

For Southern Cross growers Mick Della Bosca and Tristan Beaton, 2011 was one of their worst seasons so they jumped at the chance to put their trucks to good use carting grain from 34 properties around Mukinbudin, rather than having them stay in the shed.

Mick Della Bosca and his son, Sean, farm 20km north-east of Southern Cross, where just 100mm of growing season rain fell.

It took just two weeks for them to take off their 2200 hectare wheat crop, which averaged 0.38 tonnes per hectare.

The Beaton family farms 15km west of Southern Cross and didn't put a crop in this year after a dry start.

Tristan's father, Terry, helped the Della Boscas get their grain off so Mick could concentrate on carting grain.

"I jumped at the chance to cart some grain, it should provide me with some work until Christmas," Mick said.

He said 2003 was the last reasonable year for their farm.

"It has been dry for the last few years. This was one of our worst," Mick said.

"We have just been getting showers instead of consistent rain throughout the region.

"We haven't had any decent summer rain for the last few years either."

Mick admitted things were "getting a bit tight" but was determined to stay in agriculture.

"I've been farming all my life and I want to keep farming - I don't know any different," he said.

The Della Boscas also run a sheep operation but had to cut back their flock after last year's drought conditions.

"We cut our sheep back to 500 ewes from about 1500 because we had no feed," Mick said.

Mick often carts grain for other growers but this was the first time he had ventured so far from home.

"We normally cart for other farmers in Southern Cross but with the year being the way it is there, I thought I'd come and help out here," he said. Mick also carted grain for farmers around Northam this harvest.

The Beatons relied on their Merino enterprise this season after pulling out of their 7000ha crop program.

"We bought in extra sheep this year," Tristan said. "We had 1500 ewes and lambs and we have since bought 3000 wether lambs.

"They will all get sold at the start of next season because we are usually total crop."

Tristan said the family stood by its decision not to sow any crop this year because close to 100mm of rain fell on the farm during the growing season.

He said this was the first time the family cut back its crop altogether but they hadn't grown a full crop for a few seasons.

"For the last three years we haven't had a chance to put it all in - we planned to but the starts were too dry."

Tristan said 2005 was the last time the family had an above average year.

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