A tale of two farms is playing out at the McCreery family’s properties east and west of Kalannie, where lucky rainfall on the west block made all the difference to yields.
Jordi McCreery was in the cab harvesting wheat this week after a stop-start beginning of harvest saw him park up four times in two weeks for rain, with 35mm recorded in November.
Jordi farms with wife Kate, brother Rowan, and Rowan’s wife Dani, and Jordi and Rowan’s parents Sue and Brian.
The family was about halfway through harvesting their 6000ha cropping program by Tuesday, with canola, barley, and about half of the wheat in the bin.
The family are netting vastly different yields at their two main blocks, which are east and west of Kalannie.
The town itself has notched up 270mm of rainfall this year — nearly 20mm below the 288mm average.
The McCreerys’ west block, next to town, has had about 75mm more rainfall than their east block, 30km east of Kalannie.
Jordi and Kate live on the east block with their four children, Tyler, 9, Flynn, 7, Annabel, 5, and Harper, 1.
Jordi said the east block had experienced a “challenging” year with no summer rain and a delayed winter break in July.
“The crops on the east block didn’t start growing until July, and I was still hand-feeding sheep, when we would normally finish that in April,” Jordi said.
“There was just no winter break at the east block, but west of town was quite a good start and the crops are looking quite good now.”
“It is fortunate we do have the farms split up, because it has helped to balance it out.”
The McCreerys swung lupins into the program for the first time in four years this year to capitalise on the moisture on the west block.
That section of the farm had a solid start to the year, with 85mm of summer rain followed by 125mm between May and July.
Comparatively, just 75mm fell at their east block. Seeding lupins is a move that has paid off, with both barley and lupins yielding above average after the good winter break and summer rainfall.
“We have harvested and stored most of the lupins, just in case we need the lupins for future years, and we have enough for a few years now,” Jordi said.
Overall, the family put in 3500ha of wheat, 1500ha of barley, 650ha of canola and 250ha of lupins this year.
While the recent rain has been a bit of a pain, the McCreerys are feeling grateful to have escaped heavy downpours and the hail that has affected some in the Eastern Wheatbelt.
“There is always a bit of rain around the start of harvest, but it normally doesn’t rain two or three times in a week,” Jordi said.
There was just no winter break at the east block, but west of town was quite a good start and the crops are looking quite good now.
As well as the 6000ha cropping program, the McCreerys also run about 2000 ewes, breeding both Merinos for meat and wool, and Poll Dorsets for meat.
The McCreerys offloaded a portion of their flock this year because of the dry conditions, but plan to build their numbers back up early next year.
They hope they may not have to spray some paddocks in summer because the sheep will help control weed germination.
“We kept the sheep for an agronomic reason, so we don’t have to rely on chemicals so much,” Jordi said.
“It is more work having the sheep, but we find it worth it.”
In the 10 years since Jordi returned home, they have experimented, planting about 45,000 saltbush plants, with about 100,000 eucalyptus trees first planted in the 1990s to control salinity.
They cut the trees in 2005 and 2017, selling branches to Kochii Australian Eucalyptus Oil at Kalannie.
“It is great to have an industry in town that is not just reliant on cropping… it has really diversified the town,” Jordi said.