IT’S an absolute truth that every silver lining needs a cloud. I would also suggest you first need a cloud – albeit the elusive nimbostratus, which seemed to have taken most of this season off – to find a tread of comforting optimism in such disappointing circumstances.
This season has been mentally and physically exhausting for many farmers, akin to slogging it out with a tar baby in a thorny briar patch.
Both weather and market predictions to actuals have provided huge variations, making it near impossible to knowing when to hold, fold, walk or run at different times this season.
We took an early punt at the start of the year and played the livestock market, which due to our fencing arrangements wasn’t too extensive. But it gave a little cream on last year’s frosted crops.
We battled a few mice during cropping and with some ultra-dry sowing provided a few patchy entablement issues, which was less than ideal. This season also provided even drier spring setting conditions conducive to the weather’s great share farmer Jack Frost to again visit and take their share of a few crops, hitting early barley and lentils hardest.
It was clear the wheat on canola ground and canola on lentil ground was in struggle town. Both were dispatched early and sat waiting to be pressed up for a good period of time. The one positive about a drought is that the hay can sit for a long time without quality being affected by leaching nutrients or mould.
The toughest part about the drought is obviously the initial bite of no rain and poor crops, which slowly manifests into the money diet. This is the mode many farmers have switched into for next season, if not already. Juggling bills, winding back development ideas and planning for a low input year is all ahead of many farmers in this situation. If only we could also manage our external fixed costs the same way.
Talking to many farmers across the state – hearing how water prices are strangling production in the north while drought for the arable and livestock farmers in the east and north-west – makes me appreciate the little we have been able to produce.
Meanwhile, the small super high oleic safflower patch is flowering happily and faba beans that usually overpromise are the two threads of silver for us. The gold will be the fact we can balance out fencing and socialising which, in no particular order, we’ll be free to enjoy over most of the summer.
This Christmas, I will again put my order for silver-lined nimbostratus every fortnight for the whole growing season. I hope everyone can get their ends close and that Christmas gives everyone a change to recharge and prepare for a bright 2019.