Rain a relief for Quairading farmer

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Bob GarnantCountryman

For parts of the Wheatbelt the past week's rains were "crop saving" - but it was not so for all.

Quairading farmer Murray Williams recorded a much-needed 41mm last Wednesday and Thursday to turn his livestock grazing paddocks green again.

Mr Williams crops 300 hectares and runs 100 Red Poll cows and an 1100-head breeding Merino ewe flock.

"The amount of rainfall was unexpected, but it may have just bought us another month or so of growth," he said on Tuesday, after receiving another 5mm throughout the night.

"The crops have struggled to come out of the ground and those that germinated are handling the season OK even after five frosts. The dry June really set us back."

Mr Williams said in the past decade the seasons had been unpredictable.

Last week, Kalannie farmer Graeme Hathway recorded just 7mm from the mid-week weather pattern.

With 6500ha of wheat plantings, Mr Hathway said growth was all over the place with the more advanced plants showing eight to 10 leaves.

"We had a good April rainfall of 50mm but June fell to just 5mm. All our feed is running short and we have a long way to go," he said.

In Southern Cross, the Panizza family are in dire straits.

Peter Panizza said the 7mm of rain that fell last week would not save the family's 2000ha crop, which had been scaled back from the normal 5650ha seeding program due to a dry start, with a May opening rainfall of 17mm.

"We won't be using the header this year and 2000 sheep will be sent for agistment as our grain supply is nearly finished," Mr Panizza said. "The State Government's farm package seems to be misdirected and there should be some financial assistance for the worst hit for transport, water and feed. We have just about had enough and are prepared to walk off the farm."

In Northampton, at the Sudlow family's farming properties, rain is desperately needed after recording only 14mm for June and July.

The Sudlow's mixed 65/35 cropping/livestock enterprise includes 5000ha of crops over three properties.

"The dry season is disappointing. Crops have been significantly reduced and pasture is almost non-existent after a May opening of 50mm," Mr Sudlow said.

"We have sold off all the dry sheep, and sheep still on farm are on lick feeders with grain running short.

"We have sacrificed 300ha of wheat and barley for our stud cattle. After increasing the stud herd this year most cattle are on crops and yearling bulls are on the southern block where it is greener.

"We are not expecting much rain out of the next system this week."

Wickepin farmer Rob Mullan recorded 48mm last week at the home farm but his Dudinin property fell short, with 17mm in the gauge.

"Wickepin consistently seems to be in the path of storms. We have been moving sheep from Dudinin to Wickepin as feed runs short," he said.

CBH operations manager David Capper said the rain had been great for areas that had received it.

"Unfortunately there are still parts of the State that missed out," he said.

"We will continue to monitor how the crop responds to the much appreciated rain and will adjust estimates over the next few weeks.

"We hope this rain will spur growers into completing and returning their harvest estimate forms as returns to date are low.

"We can't emphasise enough how important these estimates are to our harvest planning and ensuring we deliver the best service possible to growers."

The Department of Agriculture and Food's monthly growing season outlook has forecast improved rainfall prospects for the Wheatbelt over the next three months.

The department's Statistical Seasonal Forecast system indicated normal to wetter than normal rainfall conditions were likely in the Wheatbelt from late July to September.

"June was extremely dry, with warmer than normal daytime temperatures and lower than normal night temperatures," DAFWA research officer Ian Foster said. "Soil moisture levels across the Wheatbelt have significantly reduced, as a result of these dry conditions, particularly in the northern and eastern parts.

"As a result of the dry conditions to date, overall growing season rainfall is expected to be lower than average."

Mr Foster said the forecast was made with a medium predictive skill rating, based on global sea surface temperature and atmospheric pressure patterns in June.

However, the predictive skill for the northern Wheatbelt and the Esperance region was considered poor.

The forecast is consistent with the Bureau of Meteorology's new seasonal climate forecasting system.

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