Times tough but quitting not on

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The Days are not letting a run of dry seasons change their vision of the long-term future of agriculture.

Rohan and Karin Day farm 45km south-east of Merredin with their children Catie, Harry and Will.

This year is shaping up to be the worst in the 90 years the family has been on the farm.

"We won't be making a profit this year," Rohan said. "We've got a chance of covering our costs if grain prices hold up.

"The years of 2007 and 2010 were bad but this is worse than both those years. It's the worst we've seen."

Despite most of the seasons in the last decade being below average, the family is determined to stay in the game.

"We understand that farming out here will bring its highs and lows and at the moment we are having a few lows," Rohan said.

"We will just hang in there until the cycle comes around.

"We love farming and the community and lifestyle and we want to be here."

With just 100mm of growing season rainfall, the Days are uncertain whether all of their crop will be harvestable.

This season the family planted 3600 hectares of wheat, 600ha of lupins and 400ha of barley.

"We had 130mm for the year and 100mm for the growing season," Rohan said.

"I don't think the summer rain made much difference because the rain in the growing season has just hit the top of the soil.

"The rainfall events haven't been big enough."

Rohan said the farm only received two rainfall events of more than 10mm this season - one in June and the other in July.

He said the season was off to a decent start before a dry spell in May, which devastated their lupins.

"On May 4 we had 8mm and then 4mm the next day. We had lupins in the day before that and we put in half of our wheat in the second week of May," Rohan said.

"We had a (three-week) dry spell in May and a lot of our lupins died and our wheat came up patchy."

The Days did not reseed the lupins and expect about three-quarters of the crop to be worth harvesting.

A frost event in late September is expected to further reduce wheat yields, in some paddocks by up to 50 per cent.

"It will be hard to quantify until we put the header in but it will probably result in about 30 to 50 per cent loss on our heavier country," Rohan said.

"There is not much there to begin with because it is our poorer crop anyway."

Though the prospects do not look good for harvest, the family will still run a header over most of the crop.

Rohan said about half of the farm was made up of heavy country and half sandplain.

"Our early-sown stuff on our sandplain country is looking really good - that should go about 1.2 tonnes per hectare," he said.

"The late stuff on the heavy country has really suffered - that will probably go about 0.1-0.2t/ha.

"I hope we will harvest at least 80-90 per cent of our crop."

Rohan said his threshold for harvesting grain this year would be 0.1t/ha. Last year the family got reasonable yields but harvest rain meant grain quality was poor.

"Last year we averaged just under 1.5t/ha, which is about our average," he said. "About a quarter of our grain was downgraded in quality."

The family plans to start harvest in the first week of November.

Fast facts *

WHO: Rohan and Karin Day

WHAT: Mixed farming

WHERE: Burracoppin

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