Cereal and oilseed growers across northern Victoria and the southern Riverina are converting their crops to hay as seasonal conditions worsen.
Conditions vary across the region, with some places like Corop and Dookie reporting better sub-soil moisture and rainfall, but a large number of cropping farmers are not taking a chance on their crops being able to mature and are converting them to hay.
Elmore sheep and mixed cropping farmer Ged McCormick has started cutting his wheat and canola crops for hay.
Mr McCormick sowed 32ha of both wheat and canola across two paddocks at the start of May and said yields would be well down on expectations.
‘‘Some paddocks that won’t make volume for hay we will take through to grain,’’ he said.
‘‘We will be looking at 400kg to the hectare on some which is not a lot when we are normally looking at five tonnes per hectare for wheat and two-and-a-half tonnes per hectare for canola.
‘‘That’s not going to happen this year.’’
Mr McCormick summed up how dire the situation was for him.
‘‘It’s only September and it’s very scary to be in this situation early in the season. It is still a long time until summer.’’
When asked about how important the back-up of cutting crops for hay was financially, Mr McCormick said it was a way of breaking even for him.
‘‘It costs hundreds of dollars per hectare to sow the crop. By cutting it for hay, it might get the cost back but not a profit.’’
Landmark Elmore agronomist Chris Dunn agreed.
‘‘The west side of Elmore has a greater percentage of farmers cutting hay ... compared to the east (of Elmore) as there is a greater bio-mass in the crops to the east because of more rain,’’ he said.
‘‘(Cutting crops for hay) definitely means the difference between breaking even or having a loss.’’
Mr Dunn said all the canola that was going to be cut for hay around the Elmore area had been cut and baling was under way, with cutting cereal crops for hay just starting.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s climate outlook for October to December shows parts of eastern and southern Australia are likely to be drier than average.
The outlook also says the days are very likely to be warmer than average.
Grain growers are being advised to record their crop management strategies and the outcomes for benchmarking purposes.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation says record keeping will form an important resource for growers in coming years, should they be required to again cut crops in response to seasonal conditions.
The advice comes from farm consultants, industry organisations and the GRDC, who are supporting growers with their decision making around management of this year’s winter crops.
The GRDC has just published an updated Hay and Silage Fact Sheet on making the most of a failed winter crop.
■Crop goes to hay at Mulwala, see page 3.