Cropping phase crucial for sheep enterprise

Cropping essential element for sheep enterprise


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Andy Stevens, "Gundouran", Mangoplah, inspecting the growth of Wedgetail wheat, dry sown on April 25 that benefited from 80mm rain.

Andy Stevens, "Gundouran", Mangoplah, inspecting the growth of Wedgetail wheat, dry sown on April 25 that benefited from 80mm rain.

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On his 1600ha family farm, Andy Stevens' cropping program is an essential element of his operation but the main focus is on his flock of 4000 Dohne ewes.

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On the 1600ha property, “Gundouran”, near Mangoplah, which Andy Stevens, manages in partnership with his parents Mike and Vicky, he annually joins 4000 Dohne ewes, along with an intensive cropping program.

“Our main focus is on livestock, but cropping is an essential element in our enterprise,” Mr Stevens said.

“We have a four year rotation … canola/wheat/either canola or lupins and wheat before the paddock goes back into the clover/phalaris/lucerne pasture phase.”

Mr Stevens said the rotation is designed to spread disease and marketing risk, build soil fertility and regenerate pastures to graze Dohne sheep at high stocking rates.

Coming through a dry autumn, Mr Stevens dry sowed his crops through the end of April and recent fall of 80mms on top of 20mms a week ago has really kicked the germination along.

He has 160ha of Gem canola sown at two and half kg seed, 90kgs DAP and 100kgs GranAm/ha, with 130ha Wedgetail and 80ha Trojan wheat also in the cropping mix.

The canola is Triazine tolerant, and the paddock was sprayed with Logran and Sakura residual herbicides prior to sowing.

“We don’t have any ryegrass resistance,but we monitor our pastures and use the cropping rotation to reduce any chance of resistance,” Mr Stevens said. 

Last year, the canola harvested average yield of two and half tns/ha, which was sold above $520/tn: and the Wedgetail wheat which yielded 4.8tns along with the Trojan wheat which averaged 3.5tns/ha is still to be sold, waiting on advice from his grain broker.

“We were disappointed with the Trojan wheat which had a reduced yield due to some some damage, but overall we find our biggest returns are from our grazing crops,” Mr Stevens said. 

“We benchmark all of our crops, and we estimate it could be an extra $180/ha on top of our normal returns.”

However, Mr Stevens is cautious in admitting “this year could be different, as last year we were grazing by now.”

Mr Stevens said he needs to have the stock off his crops by the end of July, to ensure a good harvest.

“We have contracts for our Dohne lambs for end of July, so we gear our operation around them,” he said.

Once the sheep are taken of the grazing crops, the paddocks are top dressed with 120 to 180kgs Urea, depending upon the season.

Noting machinery is often underused, Mr Stevens has formed a website, AgriTribe to connect with farmers who often have spare time available for their machinery.

“It is local, but once it gets established, I would like to see it go national,” he said.

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