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The Year that Was

13 Feb 13

Now into the second month of 2013, we can reflect on the "Year That Was" - 2012 - a year that showed the fickleness of farming.

Farmers are inherently optimistic creatures; we approach the coming season with thoughts of a successful harvest and plan accordingly. Budgets are drawn up and we look with ambition to the sowing of the crops and their emergence.

The old conundrum, will we sow dry and if we do what percentage will be sown becomes the all important dilemma.

How devastating it is when those rains that are so desperately needed fail to eventuate. All the old adages and the "signs' of impending rain are discussed ad nauseum, it is beginning to become worrying. 

Those paddocks that looked so fantastic after having finally been sown; the lines so perfectly straight thanks to GPS, now showing the lack of rain needed for 100% crop emergence. There are patches of green bordered by brown where the grain has yet to appear. The agricultural gurus begin to forecast an average to below average season. Surely the rains will come, they have to! Barometers are tapped daily, skies watched and the all important weather forecast never missed.

Smiling faces become glum; some are lucky to receive the odd shower that "of course will help". The weather just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like rain. Will it ever break?

And then we do have a brief respite- it rains. Faces light up, but the pessimists are doubtful: "Its shaping up just like that year when...", and so it goes on. We have the odd downpour, but not enough. Fortunately in Spring we do not have that freakish very hot day that dashes all hopes; the weather is quite mild, in fact practically right up to November.

Crop yields are downgraded, will harvest cover costs, what will the market prices be, will prices be better than last year?

 We are thrown a weak lifeline; prices have risen due to adverse conditions in other grain producing countries.

Harvest begins albeit with mixed emotions; sad that the season does not reflect the costs involved in the planting, but thankful that with very reduced rainfall in the crucial growing period we are able to take the machines into the paddocks. There is not that buzz of busyness; fewer loads are carted meaning fewer trucks to deal with. The silo yards are devoid of queues of gossiping farmers whilst they await their turn for unloading; this year it's straight in straight out. Not what one sees in a bumper season.

How many times do we hear the comment, "Well with less than 160 mm of rain, we are lucky to have any harvest and look at elsewhere, they are far worse off. Some haven't even taken their headers into the paddocks."

Yes we grizzle, yes as farmers we moan, but truly, life on the land is just one big gamble year after year.

Here's hoping for a good one this year, 2013. And so the cycle continues.

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