That was the comment from Don McMillan when talking about the seasonal conditions.
Don and Kerry McMillan own two farms in central Gippsland – 81 hectares of irrigation country at Airly and 267ha of dryland light soils at Longford and Stradbroke.
They run 220 Angus, Angus-Friesian and Angus-Hereford breeders, joined to Violet Hills Charolais bulls, with calving at Longford. Weaners are brought to Airly, to fatten before direct sale to feedlot in early October. Any animals that do not fit the profile are sold as store cattle in late October through Gippsland Livestock Exchange at Sale.
In good years the couple also buy forward-condition weaners to fatten for direct sale. “We stock the Longford farm fairly heavy and we never focus on cutting hay there,” Mr McMillan said.
“The irrigation block is a backup for the dryland farm. We cut our own hay and silage at Airly – 800 round wrapped bales last year – and feed it out at Longford.”
The Airly property has an irrigation right of 226ML of high reliability and 160ML of low reliability water shares, in the Macalister Irrigation District. Mr McMillan uses the water to irrigate a clover-fescue pasture mix.
“Really, it’s been a near-perfect winter at Airly, because the lack of rain means there’s been no bogging or pugging in the paddocks,” he said. “Dry winters on the irrigation country suit us. It wants plenty of rain in summer and a dry winter. But winter is over and we need rain there. I’m also hoping to get some off-quota water.” He expects to begin irrigating this week or next.
“We’re very confident about Airly. It’s heavily grazed at the moment, but we’ll lock it up on October 1 and pull the stock off; and start preparing to cut hay and silage.” He also invested returns from the last couple of years’ of good prices for cattle into expanding a recycling dam at Airly, from 6ML to 26ML, and is looking for rain to fill it. “We’ll use it to irrigate pasture as well,” he said. “We’ve graded and resown a lot of the Airly property in the past couple of years.” But the ongoing frosts throughout the winter, with many days starting at -4 to -7 degrees Celcius, has impacted on pasture growth. He has fed out last year's silage and recently purchased a B-double load of vetch hay.
“At Longford, there’s nothing we can really do,” Mr McMillan said. “In 33 years, this is the coldest, longest, driest winter – the lowest temperatures – we’ve ever had.
“Regularly experiencing -4 to -7 degrees is pretty gruesome for farming. We are seriously planning to buy more hay, for Longford. I’ve just had a B-double load of vetch hay delivered and I’ll be putting in forward orders for more of last year’s good quality hay. We’ll need it to get through.”