Lou and Charlie Clemson made some quick decisions following a frost event on their Ardlethan property in July 2014. The decision to bale and stock their affected paddocks allowed them to regain control and resulted in a profitable outcome.
PHOTO: Sarah Clarry
An extended period of intense frost in late July 2014 hammered Lou and Charlie Clemson’s early-sown Bolac wheat.
The couple, who farm at Ardlethan in south-western New South Wales, had to decide quickly what to do with the 160 hectares affected.
“We knew we could put our cattle on it, but with 160ha, it was too much feed,” Lou says.
“Professional haymakers came to look at it but they weren’t willing to touch it. They weren’t sure whether it would dry or condition because it was so early.”
Silage was another option the Clemsons considered but when they realised they would require four pits, each the size of an Olympic swimming pool, they discarded the idea.
“We had a small four-day window once it was cut to make a decision,” Charlie says, “so we decided to bale 80ha and stock 80ha. The people who baled it bought a new conditioning machine for the job.”
On the remaining 80ha they made a quick decision to buy 150 young steers, which they put on the frosted block along with their 150 weaners.
“We bought the cattle straight away, because every day there weren’t cattle on the block we were losing bulk and money.
“They were coming through the gate within a day and a half. The worst thing about hay is that it brings in bills you weren’t expecting,” Charlie says.
“But it was great for the cattle as the season went on. It was lovely hay and it filled a feed gap when it dried out here over the spring.”
Lou and Charlie allowed the remainder of the crop to go through to harvest, and were pleasantly surprised.
“The frost took out tillers and the little rain we had meant the plant put all its energy into the remaining tillers and the grain,” Lou says.
“We took off about 2.8 tonnes to the hectare, so I was happy with that.”
The experience means that the Clemsons will stick with their commitment to early-sown Bolac wheat.
However, Charlie says, “you’ve got to make decisions that are dictated by the season and be able to adjust like that.”
The last 100 head of cattle left the 80ha paddock on 12 January for Jindalee Feedlot, having gained up to 200 kilograms.
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