Farmers fight dry autumn struggles

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Tavis Hall with his grain germination on his dairy farm in Wokalup. Photo: Nicolette Barbas
Camera IconTavis Hall with his grain germination on his dairy farm in Wokalup. Photo: Nicolette Barbas

A dry autumn has seen WA farmers go to extreme lengths to keep their stock fed.

For Wokalup dairy farmers Suzanne and Philip Hall, last Wednesday was the first day in eight weeks their cows were out in the paddocks eating grass.

“Over the last few years we’ve invested about $60,000 to pipe our old drains so we can get better water efficiencies, and it has saved us a lot of time and water,” Mr Hall said.

“But with our minuscule 34 per cent water allocation we can only irrigate enough ground to feed the cows once a day, which means we have had to buy a heap of fodder just to keep our cows alive.”

Now in its third year of drought, NSW is taking a big quantity of WA’s grain, causing an incremental price spike in grain and fodder prices for WA farmers. “All these high prices all the time are eating up our profits,” Mr Hall said. “It’s a constant struggle, and farmers are having to be more forward-thinking in order to survive.”

Soon to be a fifth-generation farm, the Halls have continued to be innovative wherever they could in order to get around the issue. “Years ago we were feeding our cows stale bread, it was the perfect waste product that gave off the right amount of energy,” he said.

“We were feeding them around 2500 loaves a day, but unfortunately the bakery closed down and we decided to find another avenue.”

Mr Hall’s son Tavis will be taking over his father’s farm and has been trialling grain germination to tackle the low rainfall problem.

“Germinating grain is a way of growing a lot of green feed with very little water,” Tavis Hall said.

“It has a large nutritional value to it and the cows eat the whole lot, roots and grass.”

The set-up is similar to a hydroponic one where the seeds are planted in a tray and kept under plant lights 24 hours a day, six days a week. “I’m only in the trial stage of this project, so there is still a lot of research to be done, but this could potentially be a first for WA dairy farming in the last 10 years,” Tavis said.

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