THE seasonal odds may have been against Cambooya district farmer Murray Todd, Dalkeith, but he still took the punt and planted 180 hectares of sorghum, incorporating four varieties, in early December 2013.
Mr Todd, who farms in partnership with his wife Anne, planted four sorghum varieties including the Pioneer G22 and G33 hybrid, and the Pacific Seeds Buster and MR 43 with “just enough moisture profile” to get the crop down.
When the headers roll out on the black soil plains next month, Mr Todd will hope to salvage about 100ha of the crop, but says it has cost him “a hell of a lot of expenses, diesel and time”.
He has not experienced such dry growing conditions on the Darling Downs since he relocated from the Blackall district in 1978.
“It has been a particularly tough growing season, plus we probably lost about 5pc of the crop to feral pigs to add to the pain. The crop initially took off and grew very nicely to start with, and we managed to irrigate about 100ha.”
So far the Todds have forward sold 120 tonnes at $330 on-farm, and look to get the same for the balance they can salvage. In the meantime, they have now placed 200 cross-bred weaner steers on the failed sorghum.
“We paid $340 to $350 for these quality weaners and will grow them through to the 450kg to 500kg feedlot weight range straight off the oats. This won’t give us the same return as if the entire crop was harvested, but will help us get some sort of return and offset the costs.
"Normally we opportunity buy in up to 250 weaners annually and sell them on to Kerwee, Beef City and Whyalla feedlots.”
Mr Todd planted his summer sorghum into a fallowed cotton crop.
“We are probably the most eastern cotton growers to have successfully grown three crops here. Last year due to the warmer weather we averaged eight bales/ha returning $500/bale, which was very pleasing.”
As a pre-planting cursor, he applied 200 units/ha of Big N, while 40kg/ha of Starter Z was applied with the seed at planting in 18in rows.
"We planted 125,000 plants to the hectare, which was a bit too thick, but the thinking was we could irrigate some of it, if it didn’t rain.”
Mr Todd will start spraying the remaining sorghum over the next three weeks using Roundup, to prepare the sorghum for harvest.