Buried treasure on Sion Hill

Grabbing opportunity: 1400 bales go underground at Lyndhurst

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Five silage pits were dug on Sion Hill, a property just off Lyndhurst's main street.

Five silage pits were dug on Sion Hill, a property just off Lyndhurst's main street.

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A 'once in a career' season means Lyndhurst's Ben Emms now has booty dug into a hillside.

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Ben Emms in front of his silage pit in hill country at Lyndhurst.

Ben Emms in front of his silage pit in hill country at Lyndhurst.

WHEN a "once in a career season" presented itself to Lyndhurst's Ben Emms, he immediately considered how best to capitalise on it.

Reflection on a couple of drought years had he and wife Mandy debating whether to continue in the cattle game.

And then in February it rained at the 11th hour - now he's in a situation where he's joined 300 cows, the most ever.

Mr Emms has just finished burying 1400 large square bales of triticale silage in five pits on Sion Hill.

He reckons at the height of the last drought, the stash would have been worth about $400,000.

The triticale was planted on about 95 hectares of paddock being cleaned up for a permanent phalaris-based pasture.

Mr Emms was intitially inclined to make hay, but as the season progressed and it kept raining, the choice of silage became ever more logical.

"If we'd left it the crop would have been past its best," he said of the decision to cut when the triticale was at its prime and make silage instead of hay.

"We weren't going to get caught again, I think most people have just come out of the drought with a near-death experience.

"I say good luck to the people who fed their breeders and made it through."

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That said, he reckoned it had been a hard year to make hay.

Mr Emms said the price of building a hay shed and digging the size silage pit needed for 1400 bales was comparable.

"But, of course, once you've got the pit you can re-use it."

He has tried plastic-wrapped silage in the past, and points to a substantial double row of ruined bales.

"We had a flood come off those hills and it just wrecked it," he said.

So he called on Woodstock's Troy McFawn to build a silage pit, the first time in Mr Emm's career he's "gone underground".

"Well, we werent going to get caught again and having it behind us has given us peace of mind."

The contractors fitted 520 bales in the biggest pit and, sensing the history of the occasion, the Emms family included a time capsule, hoping to capture a moment in time of the family's 160-year history of farming around Lyndhurst.

Mr Emms penned a letter explaining how the crop was made and wishing the best for whoever happens to uncover it.

He's hoping it won't be him.

Troy McFawn, who owns TIBBT Earthmovers, was called on to create the pits.

He used an Hitachi DF-145 dozer and a Hyundai 140 excavator to dig the pits, most took a day, but a couple took two days because of their size and the fact the operators encountered a bit of rock.

"Good, heavy clay is best," said Mr McFawn, who was taught the art of silage pit construction by Woodstock's John Cooley.

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Mr McFawn said the quality season had farmers storing whatever they could cut or strip.

"It's just the season, cut hay, fill the sheds, strip, fill the silos, the idea of the pit is to get it underground and think about it, hopefully it's there for the long term, 10, 15 or 20 years."

He said there was no point putting hay in a shed and hoping it would be right in 10 years, "because it won't be, and sheds burn down too".

Mr McFawn has known Mr Emms for decades and is now in Walgett, helping harvest, something he's been doing for the past 20 seasons.

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