Consolidating their mixed-farming enterprise towards winter and summer cropping, the Fensom family at Karalee, Hillston, is concentrating irrigation efforts on cotton as the dollar return currently is most lucrative.
But like all cotton growers, the size of plantings depends on water availability.
Each season Dave Fensom and his family aim to grow between 300 to 400 hectares of cotton, however, this year there has only been 126ha planted.
Thanks to two bores on their 1000ha irrigation acreage the Fensoms can near guarantee at least a 100ha crop no matter what the season.
Mr Fensom runs a 2800ha operation with his wife, Courtenay and sons Jack and Sam, and daughter Sarah.
As they introduced cotton some years ago, time management forced them to turn their Karalee stud Angus herd into a commercial operation now of 100 breeders,
“We are doing about 800ha of dryland farming as well in a wheat and barley rotation with legumes, including canola if the season’s right,” Mr Fensom said.
Irrigation rotation is a little different.
“It tends to be cotton based, so the rotations tend to go cotton, wheat,” he said, “but as it stands at the moment, and depending on water availability, we’d do cotton, wheat, cotton, wheat.
“To stay on top of diseases, we are now looking at a three year rotation which would include a fallow.”
After annual soil tests the cotton year begins in August with field preparation with some deep ripping and plenty of nitrogen.
“Cow manure is first applied at two tonnes/ha before we hill-up and roll beds for planting at one metre spacings,” Mr Fensom said.
This year 746 Bollgard 3 variety was planted aiming at between 12 to 14 plants per linear metre.
“We had one of the best strikes this year of up to 15 plants per metre,” he said.
The first watering immediately followed planting on October 5 followed by a Roundup weed spray between 30 to 40 days later.
Agronomy is serviced by Elle Storrier of McPherson Agronomy Services, Hillston.
Mr Fensom said he puts a “fair chunk” of nitrogen into the crop.
“Probably about 300kg to 400kg per hectare and top-up to 600kg/ha of urea through the season.
“We try and get it all on early and before Christmas.”
Price return has been good so the family forward sells close to 70 per cent of their cotton.
“When we see a pricing opportunity, we take it, but don’t play with futures or hedging,” Mr Fensom said.