Cropping

Mulwala farmer’s lucerne hay crop nationally recognised

By Rodney Woods

Mulwala's Lochie Donald has grown a lucerne hay crop that has feed tested above all others in the country for the second time in three years, as part of Feed Central's 2019-20 National Hay Quality Awards.

In addition to taking out the national award for the best lucerne feed test in 2017-18, as well as this year's award, Mr Donald has also won the NSW award for the same category for the past three seasons.

When asked why his hay had tested so high in recent years, Mr Donald said he couldn't put it down to just one thing.

“It's the small one percenters — the fertiliser program and compost variety and agronomy and also machinery (we use),” he said.

“We've invested heavily in machinery over the last 15 years.

“The one thing that ties it all together is experience — good and bad.

“You can’t get good experiences without suffering bad ones.”

The award-winning lucerne crop.

Mr Donald uses Massey Ferguson hay gear and he said the machinery he had invested in made the process more efficient.

“One example that stands out is when we used the pull along mower it took between seven and nine days (to cure),” he said.

“Now it takes five to seven (days to cure) with the twin max mower conditioner.

“That's the mowing side which is the biggest part of our machinery.

“We also use a roller bar rake and rotary rake instead of the old fashioned finger tined rake — we've got that absolutely out of the system.”

When it comes to the upcoming season, Mr Donald said it was one of the best he had seen.

“It's really good,” he said.

“It's one of the best I've seen in the 25 years I’ve been here.

“I'm hoping to see a return to a normal season but our main worry is how far prices will go down, with the abundance of hay that will be available this season.”

Mr Donald said the opportunity to win for a fourth year, would be "unreal" but he was realistic about how difficult it would be to get workers during harvest, especially if the current border closures continue.

“Our biggest heartache is staff,” he said.

“By far and away our biggest problem is finding experienced staff.

“During the main season we rely on backpackers to a certain extent to do tractor and loader driving.

“It's a good grain season, they will be all in demand and there's not many around.”