FARMERS across the Wimmera are making the tough choice to cut canola for hay following a difficult season with limited rain and cold overnight conditions.
Glenlee farmer Nathan Albrecht said he planted about 400 acres of canola this year.
“We know it’s definitely been hit by frost, but how badly is hard to tell; we are really considering cutting it down for hay,” he said.
“It’s a debate we’re all having daily at the moment. We’re just really monitoring it. If we could get that little bit more rain in the next week that will help.
“Unfortunately, the price of canola seed doesn’t justify what canola stubble is worth.”
He said the decision to cut canola would be made by the end of this week.
“I do have the feeling that we will put the header into it,” he said.
“We’ve still got other paddocks that we’re weighing up whether we’ll cut or not, and there’s still a bit of time to decide.
“You just have to feel optimistic that the rain will come sooner than later. We like to think we’ll produce something, but the quantity and quality is definitely lower than what the potential could have been.”
Laharum farmer Luke Dumesny sowed about 500 acres of canola and said he would have to cut the bulk of it for the first time.
“The canola still looks healthy, but we really need an inch or two of rain to fill the pods up but that’s not on the forecast,” he said.
“We decided to cut down now while there’s still a bit of leaf on it to get that bulk. The other crops are still looking okay at this stage and haven’t noticed any frost damage, but some of it might have to be cut for hay too.
“It’s a pretty cut-throat deciding whether to cut it or not, but at least it won’t be a complete write-off. Selling it as hay is better than nothing at all.”
Tarranyurk farmer Marshall Rodda said he had cut all his canola already.
“It hasn’t rained and we’re still getting frosts, so it probably was the right decision. We’re not looking at cutting any wheat or barley at this stage; I will have a couple of weeks to decide,” he said.
“A lot of crops don’t have enough height in them to bale for hay, so we’ll run some sheep the paddocks instead and get some feed value.”
He said it was important that farmers stayed positive for this season.
“It will be a difficult year and at this point it’s unknown what the yield will be form those better paddock. Grain prices are also looking good at the moment,” he said.
“We’ll harvest some wheat and barley, and if it goes four or five bags per acre that’s the way it is. It’s not all doom and gloom. There will be winners and losers all around.
Agriculture Victoria has released a new fact sheet to help growers decide whether they cut for hay or keep for grain.
The fact sheet complements the ‘hay versus grain calculator’ and ‘dry matter calculator' on the Agriculture Victoria website.
Agriculture Victoria Regional manager Robert O’Shannessy said the key consideration for growers was the cost-benefit of cutting a crop or letting it go through to harvest.
“The calculators help growers estimate hay yields and work out their returns after expenses from hay, compared with expected returns from harvesting the grain,” he said.
“The complementary fact sheet highlights the factors to consider when estimating potential grains yields, including the available subsoil moisture levels and the weather forecast.
“Crop growth stage is critical as it has a major effect on both hay yield and quality.”
More information can be found on Agriculture Victoria’s website.