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Stunning hay cut spearheads harvest

Corrina RidgwayCountryman

More than 1200 bales of hay off 191 hectares is a promising start to the Pickering family's season.

Scott and Sue Pickering started sowing their 2085ha program on their Derella Downs property, 120km east of Esperance, on April 24.

Finishing seeding on May 10, their program comprised 500ha of Hindmarsh barley, 550ha of Bass barley, 235ha of Stingray canola, 700ha of Mace wheat and 100ha of oaten hay.

"We have grown canola for the first time in 14 years, purely because the season was looking so good," Scott said.

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"It took us three days to seed it because we hadn't planted it in so long."

Prospects for a bountiful harvest have been spearheaded by a stunning hay cut.

When medic clover pastures came on extremely well early in the season, Scott decided to lock sheep out of 121ha for impromptu baling.

The first pasture bale for Derella Downs in a decade was cut on August 15.

"We ended up cutting 121ha of medic pasture for 804 round bales. That's 6.5 bales to the hectare," Scott said.

A further 250 bales of medic hay were baled from around 60ha on the Pickering's property Pyramid Farm, 10km away from Derella Downs - and the phenomenal cut has not stopped there.

Originally intending to bale the entire oat planting, the volume of hay was so great that Scott pulled up after just 10ha.

"We got around 150 rolls off of 10ha. It is amazing to see," he said.

Baling wrapped up at the Pyramid Farms block on September 7.

The Pickerings will keep all oaten hay to feed their stock program.

Of the 1054 medic bales, 400 will be sold.

"We run up to 5000 head of Merinos and sell between 200 and 220 poll and horn rams annually. We will keep the feed for the sheep as a bit of risk management," Scott said.

"These opportunities don't come along very often."

The Pickerings are now in a race against the season to build storage and cart the hay before harvest.

"We have a new hay shed getting built in the next seven to eight weeks," Scott said.

"We actually had to cut and bale 6.5 rolls off of less than a hectare of wheat just to clear area for the shed."

With late rains continually topping up the property's cereal and oil seed crops, Scott believes the glut of hay is a sign of things to come.

"We had 26mm here over the weekend of September 14 and 15, and the Pyramid block had 43mm at the same time. It just keeps filling heads," he said.

"We have farmed here since 1993 and it's the best crops I have seen on this property in that time."

With wheat filling five to six grains wide and barley stands solid through, Scott said the conversation was all about trying to figure out what's actually worse.

"It's very even. It's hard to work out what it will go as we haven't experienced crops like this," he said.

"I would say the barley would have to average 5t/ha.

"We would have to get between three and five tonnes across the cereals where it's not waterlogged."

The question is now about getting it off and stored as producers realise the implications of such massive tonnages.

"We have 600 tonnes of paddock storage and shares in Cascade Grains. We will resort to bagging it if CBH and storage can't keep up. We just have to be patient," Scott said.

Scott believes that CBH is working to alleviate the situation.

"At least they are aware of the issue and hopefully we can work together to get the crop off without too many problems," he said.

The Pickerings will start harvesting canola next month.

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