Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Rainfall brings best autumn break in living memory

Farmers celebrated the best autumn break in 124 years this year.

LIBBY PRICE June 19, 2014 3:39am

Farmers celebrated the best autumn break in living memory.

As the heavens continued to open over Benalla this week farmers celebrated the best autumn break in living memory.

Bureau of Meteorology rainfall figures from the past 124 years show the highest ever total rainfall for the three months from March to May of 260mm for Benalla.

The average for that period is 156mm.

The rain had given grain crops a very promising start to the growing season.

Stewarton grain growers Stuart and Michelle Feldtman have had a huge confidence boost and now estimate their wheat crops have the potential to yield six to seventonnes/ha, well above the average of four to five tonnes.

‘‘We’ve really only had one frost and crops are emerging very quickly, say in seven days, when germination usually takes about two weeks,’’ Mr Feldtman said.

The mild temperatures have also encouraged insect pests, with some not usually considered to be a problem for crops such as slaters, slugs and millipedes.

Last week the Feldtmans had to resow a canola crop due to earwig damage.

‘‘Our soils are in much better condition than they were, say 20 years ago, due to stubble retention and cultivating using narrower points,’’ Mr Feldtman said.

‘‘Unfortunately that also creates the ideal environment for soil-dwelling pests.’’

With the ground so wet, it’s been challenging to get farm machinery on the heavier clay soils, with ‘‘trafficability’’ limited.

The Feldtmans still haven’t been able to access their hill country where they need to spray for rust and water weed.

Mr Feldtman admits he has got his spray unit bogged once and had to rely on his neighbour to tow him out using a quad tractor.

Benalla rural merchandiser Peter Davis has had his best year of sales.

‘‘This is the one you dream about,’’ Mr Davis said. ‘‘It started in January when farmers focused on having a good year, after 10 to 15 fairly ordinary ones, and 10 very ordinary; hopefully the pendulum is swinging in our favour.’’

It has also been one of the worst seasons for internal parasites in sheep and cattle.

Some beef farmers have reported cow deaths due to grass tetany and have been supplementary feeding hay to try to boost magnesium levels.

The only long-term ‘‘dampener’’ has been the Bureau of Meteorology prediction that the El Nino weather system has been strengthening, which usually means drier than average conditions and a higher probability of below average rain for winter.

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