Sowing the seeds to help keep business profitable when chill of winter bites
01 May 2022
As temperatures start to cool around the country, seeding for this year's winter crops is in high gear, farmers once again hoping the weather gods – which have been harsh to many in the past few months – grant a favourable planting window.
In the Monaro region of NSW, the period between milder autumn temperatures and a winter snap is often far narrower than for other agricultural areas, so farmer Aaron McDonald knows just how important it is to take advantage of favourable conditions in March and April to get crops in before winter bites.
Aaron, father Michael and uncle Brett operate an 8500-acre property between Canberra and Cooma, which runs on average 4000 to 5000 Merino superfine wool sheep and up to 400 head of cattle, predominantly Angus.
With so many mouths to feed and sometimes challenging seasonal conditions to contend with, the McDonalds sow oats and wheat at this time of year on up to 700 acres to help feed the livestock through winter, fatten cattle and, if the growing season is particularly favourable, strip excess grain for market and bale hay for their own stock.
"They're more or less winter feed crops, saving us feeding cattle in winter and we also run ewes on them to increase production in wool and lambing. We buy and sell steers, too, and run them on the crops, as well as sheep that are going to be sold. It's a bit of a value-add for our business.
"We'll also strip the grain if it comes through to that – if we have a good season – and bale them for hay for our own stock. We also retain seed for the next season.
"The Horwood Bagshaw bar and seeder we've had for about eight years now, and really appreciate the accuracy and the efficiency. Teamed with the Case IH Magnum, the running costs are reduced and we know we're maximising our productivity when it really counts" - Aaron McDonald, Case IH customer
"Feeding of stock in colder climates is important – these crops get them through and save us buying hay and grain. You come out ahead doing that - putting the crop in saves you money on feeding, and then if you have a good season and sell some grain, then that's a bonus, and something we've been able to do the last two years.
"During the drought, too, it saved us a lot of money in truckloads of hay we didn't have to buy," Aaron said.
Aaron said regular cropping also offered another advantage for their business in the form of pasture improvement.
"The other reason we crop is to clean up paddocks with a lot of weeds. We spray them out and crop them for two to three years, and then put them back to a productive pasture for stock. It all fits together," he said.
The McDonalds put in their oats in mid-March and have just finished sowing the wheat, using a Horwood Bagshaw compact 23ft bar with a mounted airseeder, behind a Case IH Magnum 310.
"The Horwood Bagshaw bar and seeder we've had for about eight years now, and really appreciate the accuracy and the efficiency. Teamed with the Case IH Magnum, the running costs are reduced and we know we're maximising our productivity when it really counts," Aaron said.
"We go with the machinery we do because in this part of the world, timing is everything. Sometimes we only get a very narrow window to carry out the operations critical to our business. So, with shorter windows you need reliable, well-sized gear that can get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. You need to be able to get in the tractor and do as much as you can in a day.
"Durability is also key in this harsh environment, so we need machinery we can trust, which can adapt as needed and handle the often tough conditions."
Download Word Document
Download Zip archive