Pinevale farm­ers en­cour­age di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion for suc­cess

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

A GOOD run with the mills, bet­ter-than-ex­pected bin al­lot­ments and a solid run of good har­vest­ing weather has meant a pretty de­cent sea­son for Pinevale’s Melissa and An­drew Deguara.

The cou­ple runs a di­verse op­er­a­tion of cat­tle, sorghum, cane, soya beans and other value-adding crops as mar­ket and op­por­tu­nity present.

They have about 340ha un­der cane – 16 per cent of which will be planted, with the re­main­ing all shoot­ing from ra­toons for the next sea­son – and also run a har­vest­ing con­tract­ing busi­ness.

For them, di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion is vi­tal; some­thing all grow­ers need to be look­ing at to be sus­tain­able in the longer term.

“Gone are the days when we were just sugar cane farm­ers,” Mr Deguara said.

“Now, we are farm­ers – that’s work­ing all year around and work­ing with multi-crops. We have to be adapt­able – meet the needs of the mar­ket and be aware of, and able to re­spond to, the trends.”

Mrs Deguara said hav­ing econ­omy of scale, plan­ning for the tougher times when things were good, and look­ing at what al­ter­nate crops would work, were also driv­ers of a sus­tain­able op­er­a­tion.

“We have about 150 breed­ers (cat­tle) and we have had to have them feed­ing on trash in the cane pad­docks we have cut and we are grow­ing sorghum now for ei­ther our own stock or for bales – it’s what­ever the need is, we re­spond to that.

“You have to be al­ways look­ing at your own op­er­a­tion. That’s where it all starts.

“We know we will have the times when we need to cut back on cap­i­tal im­prove­ments on the farm, but the costs of in­put into the cane, that needs to stay con­stant.”

For the Deguaras, this crush­ing sea­son has been some­thing not seen for about 15 years.

“It just won’t warm up,” Mr Deguara said.

“But, we had fore­casts that it was go­ing to be dry and we could plan for that. We can ir­ri­gate and cut ac­cord­ing to what needs to go when.”

The cold, though, is an­other story. Dur­ing the spells of cold, some­times sub-zero tem­per­a­tures, through­out the re­gion this win­ter, the Deguara’s Pinevale fields were heav­ily frost af­fected.

“We can plan for the dry, and we can wa­ter. But there is not a lot we can do about the cold,” Mr Deguara said.

“From a har­vest­ing point of view it has been per­fect this year, but not so much for the growth.

“We have had only 3mm of rain for the whole crush; we missed out on that good rain a lot of the oth­ers had.

“And as for the frost, we lost growth on the plant cane but it has all come back. Our other crops are still go­ing along okay although it was rough on them, and the stand­ing cane took a hit.”

Still, they just got on with it and man­aged where they cut and pri­ori­tised what had to get to mill soon­est.

“The mills and Mackay Sugar’s op­er­a­tions have been go­ing well this year and that has helped. If any­thing, we have strug­gled to keep up,” Mr Deguara said.

“It’s been the best we’ve seen in many years and the man­age­ment and work­ers in the mills are to be con­grat­u­lated for that.”

As for next year, as is al­ways the case, it’s a wait-and-see af­fair.

The cou­ple is happy they have no stan­dover for the first year in a cou­ple and the odd rogue storm might even be enough to set the growth on the right track for a good 2019 crush.

Yes, there’s the sugar price, the un­cer­tainty around Mackay Sugar and those who are in­tent on be­ing neg­a­tive. But that’s not their con­cern.

“We just get on with do­ing what we have to and mak­ing sure we are look­ing after our op­er­a­tion. We can only work with, and do the best with, what we are given.”


LOOK­ING AHEAD: Pinevale’s An­drew and Melissa Deguara pro­duce grain and cat­tle.

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