Cropping

Northern Victorian climate perfect for lucerne growing, Kyabram hay producer says

By Rodney Woods

While NSW farmers dominated the national titles, as part of Feed Central's 2019-20 National Hay Quality awards, they were denied a clean sweep by the Thompson family from Kyabram.

Sam and Jake, along with their wives Danielle and Sarah, took out the national and Victorian best lucerne hay visual test awards, with a crop they usually get five cuts out of a year.

“The crop is laboratory tested and it was a our second cut of lucerne that won the national award and the fourth cut got us the Victorian award,” Sam said.

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The family has been producing premium lucerne for 15 years, which they sell to chaffing mills for horse feed.

Sam said the win was some positive news considering the difficulties he has faced in his other profession as a pilot for Virgin Australia.

He explained the farming job meant some late nights during harvest time.

“I was delighted to get that news because of the stresses in the airline sector,” the fourth-generation farmer said.

“I guess the main things to get a premium standard are the Goulburn Valley has terrific soils, we have three paddocks with pivot irrigation under lucerne, the Goulburn irrigation scheme is a reliable source of good and clean water and the climate we have here in northern Victoria is best for lucerne in Australia as it dries they hay out quickly and that helps the colour.

“With the hot, dry days and humidity at night or in the early hours of the morning, it means we can be up all night nurturing the hay because when the crop has a enough moisture on it then machinery can be used on the crop without damaging the leaf, which is brittle during the day.

“It's like having a newborn baby because if you look at the local forecast and it says the humidity will be at a certain level at 11 pm (for example) and it is too dry you have to come back and check on it after a few hours and that's how you can be up all night.

“We get superior control of irrigation through the pivots and you have to get the agronomy right.

“Our agronomist, Advanced Ag Shepparton's Tim Anderson, keeps a close eye on our crops for nutritional issues and pests.

“We cut that lucerne in the early flower stage as that represents the highest feed value.

“If you leave it for too long, the stalk becomes thick and the animals don't like it.”