THE Penny family at Warracknabeal are making an extra paddock of hay unexpectedly this season.
They have this in common with many farmers in NSW and Queensland who have been hit hard by frost and moisture stress, but the reasoning behind the decision much more positive.
Cameron Penny said the paddock, at Areegra, east of Warracknabeal, had always been slated to be sprayed out about this time of year to control problem weeds.
“We only bought the paddock in the last few years and we’ve been trying to keep the weeds in check via brown manure and hay crops,” he said.
“This year, we scratched in some Wintaroo oats combined with a bit of vetch primarily to provide some sheep feed through the winter feed gap before we desiccated the crop and got on top of the weeds.”
However, he said there had been a pleasant surprise for the family farming enterprise.
“Even with a good number of sheep on the paddock, around 800 ewes with lambs at foot in a 200 hectare paddock, they have not managed to keep the feed down,” he said.
“There’s so much biomass here, especially on the hills where the sheep haven’t got to, that we have decided to cut the paddock for hay.”
He said hay was the best option for generating extra income from the paddock, as opposed to leaving the oats for grain.
“The oats are a grazing and hay variety, not really suited to taking through to grain, and weed management is the priority, which is why we’ve decided to make hay.
“It’s a good bonus. We expected it to be eaten down well and truly by now, but the oats have really got going.”
He said the crop was nearly exclusive oats now.
“There isn’t much vetch left in the crop at all,” he said.
The paddock was sown early, in April, in order to get some feed up and going through winter, but good late winter rain has kept the crop flourishing.
The Penny family are experienced hay makers, having done so since the years of the millenium drought, when they turned to hay to generate an income from failed grain crops.
“We like the fact it gives you a little bit of flexibility, it allows you to control your weeds and it also is good risk management, you still have a crop even if the spring rains fail,” Mr Penny said.
Mr Penny farms across a number of properties between Warracknabeal and Donald, along with land at Nullawil in the eastern Mallee with his wife Trish, parents Ian and Lorraine, brothers Andrew and Travis and their wives Angela and Belinda.