Bolling with change
Reviews keep century-old enterprise going strong
THE Storrier family have been farming in the Hillston area of southwest NSW for more than 100 years.
But that doesn’t mean they continue to do things as they’ve always been done.
Instead, they’ve continually adapted their enterprises and business structure to ensure their success and viability.
The Storriers first started farming in the 1870s and now the business, Riverview Farming, is owned and operated by Paul and Carole Storrier, their eldest son Michael and his wife Stacey, with their children Charlotte and Harry, and their youngest daughter Jenny Cleton and her husband Paul, with their children Lucy, Hugh and Doug.
Riverview Farming is run across 9490ha in addition to a 390ha lease block, producing irrigated cotton, dryland and irrigated wheat and shorthorn cattle.
Their main crop is cotton, with about 1000ha grown each year.
Stacey Storrier said the cotton was 100 per cent irrigated as they didn’t receive enough rain in the area to grow dryland. Their average annual rainfall is 350mm.
Irrigation water comes from the Lachlan River and five bores spread over their five properties.
“We planted our first cotton crop in 1998 when it was very new to the area. We crunched a lot of numbers and realised cotton was more profitable. Prior to cotton there was a lot of maize and wheat grown,” Stacey said.
The average yield of the cotton is about 12–12.5 bales/ha.
“These days that is fairly achievable in most years. There are years we have done a lot better than that, there are also cooler seasons when yield has been below this,” Stacey said.
Varieties grown were the same as the northern growing areas, but the crop is managed with growth regulants to make sure it finishes on time. Planting ideally begins at the end of September to mid-October, with picking in April and May.
The Storriers use a private agronomist and grow variety trials for Cotton Seed Distributors, something they have been doing for about 10 years.
“It helps to see what the varieties will do before they come out commercially, so the bonus is we get to test varieties, growing them the same way we grow our own cotton.”
RIVERVIEW Farming is also a
Better Cotton Initiative licensed grower, which aims to make cotton production more sustainable.
While there is no denying this year has been tough season-wise, Stacey said they had managed to plant their usual 1000ha of cotton by making use of their water allocations.
“We try and spread our water allocations over a couple of seasons to maintain a steady production, which is the way we have droughtproofed our business,” she said.
However, she said the price of water at the moment was high so this would inhibit any water purchases, and the lack of rainfall recently had meant there was little opportunity to spread water allocations to next season.
“The next 12 months will be interesting. We aren’t sure what will happen for the season after this one,” she said.
Water monitoring was an important part of the farm, with moisture probes in each of the cotton fields so they could “keep track” of moisture to inform all irrigation decisions.
Stacey said they had been updating their irrigation infrastructure.
“We were predominantly using siphons 10 years ago, but gradually we have been changing over and have 12 centre pivots and one lateral moving irrigator,” she said.
They are also redeveloping other fields from siphons to bankless channels, which means they can control the flow of water more easily across the paddock.
Once the cotton is picked, Stacey said they mulch, root cut and plant wheat, so they are getting a double crop and making the most of the moisture left over from the cotton.
“The rotation consisted of cotton, wheat and then fallow to reduce the risk of disease,” she said.
THE Storriers mostly use all their own equipment and purchased a round-bale cotton picker when they first came on to the market.
“The picker is operated by one person, with one other person required to assist with the daily servicing, which significantly reduces any work health and safety issues.”
They also run a small herd of shorthorn cattle, currently with about 200 breeding females. Stacey said the cattle provided an income stream outside of growing crops and the shorthorn suited their climate and had a good temperament.
One of the keys of the Storriers’ success is that they operate the farm by a board structure.
“About 15 years ago Paul went to a Grazing for Profit workshop and from there we became involved in a consultancy group called Strategic Focus, which was a two-year program where we looked at our business and other businesses to see where we could improve,” Stacey said.
It was after that they took on a facilitator, who sits on the Riverview Farming board with them, and meets with them four times a year to develop strategies to improve their business and for future planning.
“It’s a family business and we all get along well, but the pressure of farming can add stress to the family, so this structure means, yes, we are a family and a business, but they are separate things,” Stacey said.
“I think it’s a big reason why we’ve been so successful, because the six of us all sit COTTONED ON: A cotton crop at the Storrier family’s Riverview Farming at Hillston, NSW. HARVEST TIME: Picking and baling the cotton crop at the Storrier family’s property. down together and go over everything together and we have things in place so we are all comfortable and happy.”
Stacey said during the process they’ve worked out what each of their strengths are, so they all have a particular role within the business. They also have monthly phone meetings with their facilitator, to discuss what has been going on, how everyone is feeling, and what is coming up.
❝ We try and spread our water allocations over a couple of seasons... — Stacey Storrier
FOCUS: The Storrier family have been farming in the Hillston region for more than 100 years, but that doesn’t mean they are doing things the way they’ve always been done. (Back) Lucy Cleton, Charlotte Storrier, Doug Cleton, Harry Storrier, Hugh Cleton, (front) Michael Storrier, Stacey Storrier, Paul Storrier, Carole Storrier, Jenny Cleton, Spot (the dog) and Paul Cleton from Riverview Farming at Hillston, NSW.
FOCUS: (From left) Michael, Harry and Paul Storrier in a cotton crop at Riverview Farming, Hillston, NSW.