KICKING the hay season off in August with a fertiliser boost is the first job for Hillston lucerne grower, Don “Duck” Robertson.
It’s done twice during the season, the second in December.
“I spread 125 kilograms of Golfos per hectare then water-in each time, Mr Robertson said.
With his wife, Noelene and son, Ben, Mr Robertson runs a 1000ha mixed farming enterprise on Langlea on the Lachlan River currently growing 100ha of R57114 Haymaster 9 variety lucerne of PGG Wrightson Seeds.
Lucerne on three blocks, each of some 30ha, vary in growing years – the oldest sown four years ago while the youngest was sown just over a year ago.
The Robertsons also trade sheep or lambs depending on availability while they have a mob of 250 young Merino wethers running on a Western Lease block across the river from the irrigation property.
A small flock of Dorpers also run on Langlea.
“Being small operators Ben and I do a bit of contracting from hay baling to cotton industry work,” Mr Robertson said.
Ben recently completed his welding apprenticeship at Griffith and now is full-time on the farm assisting Don along with David Fisk.
The irrigation comes from a bore and off the river.
“I have the luxury of both, but the river water is hellishly expensive as I had to buy some water last year,” Mr Robertson said.
The growing season has been excellent even with the slow start in a cooler August.
“I did three cuts before Christmas and plan another three before the season runs out in autumn,” he said.
Each cut has yielded an average 2.5 tonnes/ha and the pay-off for expensive water is the present hay price.
“I’ve never had to advertise as I have good clients,” he said.
One established feedlot client takes close to 70 per cent of the produce.
In mid-August Mr Robertson also sprays 2kg/ha of diuron and 2L/ha of SpraySeed.
“That one herbicide spray seems to get me through the season and the other thing is, people don’t like chemicals on lucerne,” he said.
“There might be a section where there is some weed, but that hay is still marketable as some clients don’t mind a bit of weed and the price compensates.”
Insects haven’t been a large problem within the crop.
“We’re cutting basically every month so by the time insects start to get going, we cut it and it’s that bloody hot they just drop dead anyway, so they never really get going.”
The added bonus are the sheep which are fattened on the blocks during winter.
Mr Robertson said he liked growing the Haymaster 9 for its multi-leaf variety.
“It has leaves from the ground up. It’s a real good hay lucerne and it’s not too bad for grazing in winter.”