Late rain ic­ing on Lake Grace cake

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

For the Bairstow fam­ily of Lake Grace, late rains and fine weather have de­liv­ered an un­ex­pected above-av­er­age crop this year.

Noel and Karen Bairstow, who crop their 10,000ha prop­erty with son Luke and daugh­ter-in-law Jemma, planted 1900ha of wheat, 1300ha of bar­ley, 1000ha of oats and 280ha of canola, along­side 1700 An­gus breed­ing cat­tle.

They in­vested heav­ily in chem­i­cals with two weed knock­downs af­ter drench­ing sum­mer rains.

It was then “touch and go” to see if their de­ci­sion to run a full crop­ping pro­gram was the right one af­ter the next few months proved much drier.

“We started plant­ing ser­radella and ce­real pas­tures for the cat­tle in March, and at that time we were quite con­fi­dent with the level of sub­soil mois­ture,” Noel said.

“But by the time we started sow­ing canola at the end of April, the below-av­er­age rain­fall had be­come a con­cern.

“The crops ger­mi­nated un­evenly with about one-third of the plant­ings fail­ing to emerge where there was not good mois­ture.”

Noel said iso­lated patches of rain­fall in the Lake Grace area had meant there was crop vari­abil­ity.

“It is not much you can do when the weather is like that, but we were lucky to get still most of the pro­gram ger­mi­nated be­fore the lack of rain started to bite us dur­ing June,” he said.

“The crops that ger­mi­nated got their feet-in and we’re able to sur­vive quite well in the low rain­fall con­di­tions.

“The prob­lem was that the next grow­ing plants could not reach the sub­soil mois­ture.”

Noel said there had been some sunny weather with rea­son­able fronts com­ing through in re­cent weeks, which was ideal for the crops. “The ex­cel­lent rains in July topped ev­ery­thing back up and so we prob­a­bly only need one good rain in Septem­ber and then that will be job done for us,” he said.

Noel said the fam­ily had cat­tle to fall back on in a bad year, es­pe­cially be­cause the area was prone to frost.

In 1998, the Bairstows de­cided to spread their risk by di­ver­si­fy­ing into cat­tle af­ter frost dev­as­tated their crop that year.

“We made a profit that year be­cause cat­tle prices were good and we were able to ex­port our hay that is re­served for feed­ing our an­i­mals,” Noel said.

“We were also able to sell a fair bit of frosted wheat for fod­der last year too.”

Noel said they started their cat­tle busi­ness with a high­qual­ity herd of 350 cat­tle bought from Esper­ance when a farmer re­tired and sold all of his live­stock.

“The cat­tle are now self-re­plac­ing with a yearly turn-off of about 1400 cat­tle, but this year will be a lit­tle bit down on that fig­ure be­cause we got rid of some dry cows to make some room,” he said.

“The older cows and bulls go to the lo­cal abat­toirs, and the younger live­stock is sold at the strate­gic An­gus sales held at Mt Barker sa­le­yards.”

Photo avail­able at west­ Picture: Rueben Hale

Noel and Karen, Bairstow with son Luke and daugh­ter-in-law Jemma, hold­ing their chil­dren, 21⁄2year-old Eva and six-month-old Abby, in the sun­shine af­ter some big rains.

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