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Farming in adverse weather conditions – how Australian farmers cope with drought

David and Sarah Heinjus and I headed out to Wadnaminga, which is a station just outside of Manna Hill in South Australia and is the home to Jim & Jenny Treloar, writes Brown&Co’s George Lane.

This was a 3½ hour journey into the bush.

 

Their son Henry is starting employment at Brown & Co shortly and has also had a stint at Rural Directions.

 

Jim and Jenny are the introducers of Rural Directions to Brown & Co as they met Simon Wearmouth at a family wedding back in Norfolk a number of years ago.

 

Jenny is originally from Norfolk, along with Jim having worked in the U.K for a number of years.

 

I would like to give a big thank you to them for having me and thank you to them for the introduction to Rural Directions and Brown & Co to enable them to come together, allowing the two firms to implement this employee exchange programme.

 

Whilst out on the visit, Jim and Jenny took us around their station which is circa 110,000 acres and they had a map of this farm over the top of a map of Norfolk, which showed that their farm covers the vast majority of north Norfolk. Just to put the size and scale into perspective.


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Whilst we were out there, they took us up to a look-out point where we could see the majority of their farm which was a far as the eye could see.

 

Now for this scale I asked Jim how many head of sheep he could run over there and they are limited to 7,500 sheep running over the 110,000 acre block!

 

Whilst we were also touring around the station, we were having a conversation about the ever present issue of the weather and, in particular, this year with the drought. I was informed that Jim and Jenny were considering not putting the ewes to ram this time due to the poor conditions and the lack of grazing for them.

 

They are considering just keeping the ewes and taking a cut of wool from them. Jim added if they do not lamb the sheep they should get an extra 20% wool yield because the energy is being focused on the sheep, not on producing the lamb.

 

This really made me think about how adverse weather conditions are in Australia, and how it can really change the dynamics of farming businesses.

 

Not putting the sheep to lamb will have an impact on business profitability, but in the long run, it should pay dividends as the sheep will not need extra feed for energy and with the lambing percentage being nearer to 60% in an average year, this could be a lot lower in these current conditions, not to mention the probably increase in ewe mortality at lambing.

 

It just goes to show how much impact the weather conditions have in Australia and how resilient and dynamic the farmers need to be to succeed.

 

During one of a our many conversations, it really did become apparent how small the agricultural world is indeed, with Jim informing me that he actually used to work for a client of mine down on the east coast during his time over in England where he met Jenny.

 

Whilst on my travels around the station and upon returning back to the Clare Valley, the sheer number of kangaroo’s, emu’s and feral goats that were around was truly mind boggling.

 

We went past a paddock which must have been nearer to 100 hectares is size, which had over 200 kangaroos grazing in it. This can only be described as absolute devastation to the crop.

 

There was not much of it anyway let alone after it had been mob grazed by a herd of kangaroos.

 

I must take my hat off to the farmers in South Australia and how resilient they are, particularly this year when they have suffered the adverse conditions of the drought.

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