Country News

Machinery changes drive hay industry, says Invergordon contractor

By Rodney Woods

Invergordon hay contractor Luke Felmingham, of LKF Contracting, was recognised at this year's AFIA National Fodder Conference for his 10-year service to the industry.

Held in the Hunter Valley in late July, Mr Felmingham said the conference guest speakers spoke on a range of topics from lamb bacon and innovation to OH&S as well as the problems facing Murray-Darling Basin communities.

Speaking on his award win, Mr Felmingham joked about what the award meant before saying "it's good to be recognised".

"It probably means I'm getting old," he said, laughing.

"It's good to be recognised within your industry and it was a good formal dinner and function and a good conference."

Mr Felmingham said the advancements in machinery were the biggest changes over the 10 years.

"Just the machinery going forward.

"It's getting more efficient, everything's getting bigger, heavier.

"Things like the steamer, the conditioning technology drying out hay faster, packaging products — everything’s evolving."

In terms of the current season, Mr Felmingham said it was running two weeks ahead of normal.

"Definitely, this year, the season started earlier which is putting a lot of pressure on machinery dealers and contractors and farmers," he said.

"So it's really essential that you carefully plan.

"This early spring weather is more volatile so you’ve got increased chances of rain and there's still frosts and dewy mornings so it gets pretty hard in the Goulburn Valley to conserve hay if you start to go in too early.

"If you spoke to people two to three weeks ago probably they were sitting pretty.

"Everyone was feeling fairly buoyant about how everything was travelling.

"If you’ve been lucky enough to snag a few showers you're probably still there but mainly around here the water price is just very severe, it's unaffordable.

"Farmers are going in earlier to try and get what they can for basically no irrigation, trying to get some early silage cut and then maybe water or maybe snag a rain to get some more growth later on.

"I see that’s why it's sort of come earlier and we're just desperate for a rain to slow the season down."

Luke's father, Ken Felmingham, said one of the main reasons the season was earlier was that "the sub-soil moisture isn’t quite there".

"So we’ve been having enough rain to have reasonable crops but not enough to get a good profile down," he said.

"I’ve just started irrigating some rye-grass at the moment and it's taking more water than I expected."