Running the best possible business

Running the best possible business


Cropping
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FATHER and son duo Chris and Will Hewitt are striving to run the best possible business on their Warracknabeal farm.

FATHER and son duo Chris and Will Hewitt are striving to run the best possible business on their Warracknabeal farm.

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Fifth and sixth generation farmers, Chris and Will grow wheat, barley, peas, lentils, canola and vetch, and run Border Leicester and Poll Dorset sheep studs, on 2000 hectares.

“If you took the purist sheep farmer to our farm and showed them around, they would see some interesting things, and would probably say that we’re not doing things quite right,” Will said.

“And if you took the purist cropper to our farm and showed them around, they would say that perhaps we’re not at the absolute cutting edge of the technologies that are available.”

But he said those things aren’t their number one priority.

“We’re running a business, but trying to run one that mitigates risks, and is as sustainable and profitable as possible,” he said.

One way they do this is by incorporating two enterprises into their business in a way that is complementary of each other.

“Including livestock provides advantages from a risk management point of view,” Will said.

“Financially, cash flow from the cropping side can be heavily weighted towards harvesting season, so incorporating livestock means we have an income all year round.”

He said managing the two commodities is something that falls within their own skillsets, which is an important thing to be able to identify.

“When you look at farming, there’s no perfect method, everyone has a different farm, different strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has a different take on running their business,” he said.

“We don’t always get it right, every season is different, and presents new challenges, but we’re constantly trying to strike a balance to do things as best as we can.”

Chris said things have changed a fair bit since he moved back home in 1978.

“This farm was my uncle’s farm, and we’re now working on what used to be about four or five farms,” Chris said.

“When I came home, we only had about 600 hectares, and I’ve grown it steadily over the years.”

He said the type of farming that is done on the farm has also changed.

“We’re cropping a lot more of the farm, which used to be on a three-year rotation, every three years they’d have a crop, a third would be grazing and a third would be fallowed,” he said.

“Whereas now, most of the farm gets cropped for some sort of a crop every year, it’s pretty much continuous cropping, but alternating between cereals and legumes.”

He said livestock are beginning to make a bit of a comeback in the region.

“In this region, while cropping has been booming, most people have focused on the cropping side of their operations, but sheep are beginning to make a little bit of a comeback in the area, because of the pipeline and guaranteed water supply, and also because of the price of livestock,” he said.

Chris Hewitt during sowing earlier this year

He said a great start to the season presented a number of challenges.

The last few weeks had been dry, but sub-soil moisture from earlier in the season helped get them through it.

“We got virtually no rain in June, so things have pretty much dried out, but we’re starting to get a few showers come through now,” he said.

“The frosts have slowed down growth a bit, the early crops are getting growth but some are struggling a fair bit, although that’s to be expected.

“There has been a little bit of mice damage, but we’ve been baiting to try and control the issue.”

He said last year’s season, and the yield that came because of it, was the best they had ever seen.

“Last year was fantastic, we had a very good spring, the rain came at a good time,” he said.

“We’re always looking for October rain, and this was the first time we’d had a wet October in 10-15 years.”

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