Seeding 2022: Sunny skies and gentle rain send spirits soaring at Beverley

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Beverley farmer Scott Thompson.
Camera IconBeverley farmer Scott Thompson. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

A seeding season buoyed by gentle rain and sunny skies is under way at Beverley, with hopes for a much more “normal” year after waterlogging somewhat dampened the yields of last year’s harvest.

Its Scott Thompson’s second seeding at the farm owned by his partner Ashlyn Ridgway’s family and it has been a perfect few months to continue what the couple hope will be a long career at the farm.

They moved to the property in February last year after three years at Karlgarin, where Scott was working at his grandparents’ broadacre property after growing up on his parents’ farm at Pingaring.

Their newest farmhand — Scott and Ashlyn’s six-week-old son Riggs — was born at almost the exact time the family rolled the seeding gear out of the shed to start seeding canola late in April this year.

“Things were pretty fast on the ground for seeding, but most of the machinery was ready and it was just about getting all of the stubble burning done and getting canola in the ground,” Scott said.

Scott, Nooky and two casual staff finished seeding canola in the first week of May, moving onto cereals with just a few short interruptions for welcome rain that has come just at the right time.

It’s been an exciting year for Scott and Ashlyn to learn the ropes of broadacre cropping in a higher-rainfall part of the Central Wheatbelt with Ashlyn’s parents Dee and Nooky Ridgway.

Beverley farmer Scott Thompson.
Camera IconBeverley farmer Scott Thompson. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

At Karlgarin, the Thompsons wanted the crop out of the ground on “as little rain as possible” whereas at the Beverley farm, although still seeding a portion of the crop dry, the rainfall is a bit safer.

“The finishes are softer here… more inputs and bigger crops, heavier stubble loads,” Scott said.

Scott and Ashlyn met through mutual friends about five years ago and have travelled around the Wheatbelt in the years since, but are loving the chance to farm with the Ridgways.

An agronomist by trade, Ashlyn was working in Waroona when she met Scott and moved to Nutrien in Lake Grace before they relocated to Beverley last year.

Last year was “phenomenal” for rainfall, so much so that they struggled to get onto paddocks to spray and the weed burden was higher than average in some paddocks.

“It was definitely not an average year here, there is a lot of low-lying country… the year panned out OK, a lot of areas were too wet but it came out alright in the wash even though yields were affected,” Scott said.

“There is still a lot of soil moisture in the profile so we are happy with how the crops are going in.”

The drier start to the season has Nooky feeling buoyant about the year ahead, with enough rain for their 2300ha cropping program to start popping out of the ground without being waterlogged.

He and Dee also run about 1800 Merinos across the farm, which the Ridgway family have run since 1903.

Nooky is a fourth generation farmer and Ashlyn is fifth.

The family started seeding on April 26, starting a little bit later than some of their neighbours because they were still busy burning paddocks of stubble to reduce their frost risk.

Like many farmers, a little more canola is going in this year to make the most of the good prices — with WA farmers on track to plant a near-record canola crop just slightly down on last year.

“We had too wet a year last year so we want the ground to dry out a bit… we’ve been happy with the bits of rain that have fallen so far,” Nooky said.

“Last year was one of our worst years, we had 180mm in July… it killed the season”.

Nooky said he believed grain prices needed to stay at the current high levels to compensate for the high cost of seed, inputs and machinery.

Beverley farmers Nooky and Dee Ridgway.
Camera IconBeverley farmers Nooky and Dee Ridgway. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

After finishing harvest on December 16, the Ridgways stored a lot of their grain and waited.

“We were fortunate we didn’t sell all of our grain (from last harvest) until now and that has made a big difference, the prices are going through the roof,” he said.

“When you look at what you have in the paddock at harvest and seeding time, there is more than $2m in the paddock… and then inputs on top of that.

“This needs to be the new normal for grain prices.”

Nooky said farmers in the Beverley area were worried about the cost of inputs, with many farmers feeling OK about this year but very concerned about next year.

“We have locked in our fertiliser prices, and bought a lot of fertiliser… filling a Flexi-N tank has doubled in price,” he said.

“Some farmers are saying they are winding back their fertiliser programs, but whether that happens or not, I don’t know.

“We are hoping for less stress this season.”

Aside from seeding, the Ridgways are this year focused on building a new shed after carting in 7000 tonnes of gravel in January for laneways and to lay the pad of the shed.

They deferred the works last year because it was too wet to access the gravel.

Nooky said he was enjoying having Scott and Ashlyn and their two children on the farm.

The Ridgways after also lucky to have regular visits from a grandson living up north and another two living on a neighbouring property.

“That’s the best part, seeing all the kids love the farm,” he said.

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