Ten years ago I had just started a real job. Got a trade, as every farmers son was advised to do back then. So I did. I was halfway through a Building Design and Drafting (with a pen, not a gate) TAFE course when I got offered a job with a local crayboat builder as a drafty. Not knowing anything about boats except that they make me feel crook and catch bugger all fish, I spent three enjoyable and educational years there until I got sick of being in an office. So we went back farming.
|Hay Paddock, 11th June. It had been in for nearly 6 weeks.|
|The smallest of the calves we weaned early. Notice the lack|
of green in the background?
The first real rain came on the 24th of July, 25 mills, followed by another 15 on the 31st. Along with the dribs and drabs we were sitting at 80 millimetres of rain for the growing season to the end of July, and most of that was in lots of 4 or 5 mills, hardly enough to damp down the dust. By now the crops had made a half hearted efforted and a bit of green pick was about for the stock, but it was looking grim. We'll see what August brings, we said, it's got to rain shortly. It didn't.
The grand total for August was 27 mills. By now we had turned our stock on to the crops and had renegotieated the farm lease with the owner, who was kind enough to allow us to cancel the lease, something not many would do. But we had unspent finance available and needed a way to get some income to cover losses. Many prime lamb breeders around the area were forced to sell their lambs early. We saw an oppurtunity and bought in a stack of young lambs into our little feedlot. We'd always planned to expand the feedlot, so now seemed like a good time.
This is were our lives took an unexpected turn. While picking up some steel from Coolina Holding Yards, an AQIS cattle depot, the owner, Rob Powell, (RIP) asked what we were doing with it. "Building a sheep feedlot," we replied. His ears pricked up. "You should get it registered with AQIS and depot goats. People are always asking me to depot goats and I tell them they can't afford it. I'm not interested in it, but you guys should." So we did. Went through the rigorous process of getting a feedlot AQIS approved and as we were, one of the main WA exporters got wind of it and offered to use us. How we managed that is a story for another time.
So by September we'd had our bought in prime lambs go through the feedlot. We should never had bothered. With the soaring feed cost due to the demand, and glut of lambs on the WA market, we got slaughtered. It was a learning experience to say the least, one which has hardened me a little to the processors current cries of poor about the lack of supply at the moment. The rest of the stock had been turned onto the hay, we never bothered getting it mowed. At Septembers end we'd had 159.5 millimetres for the entire year. All we had to do now was hang on until next year. Six or seven months away. And to add insult to injury, 14 mills of rain fell in the middle of December. Where were you in July? December 31st finally rolled around, with a grand total of 179 millimentres, or 7 inches, for the year. Bring on 2007 we said. Can't get any worse. You'd think we would know better than to say stupid things like that wouldn't you.......