Livestock operations across parts of the state have been capitalising on the bumper summer crop season, filling up their silage pits as a buffer against future droughts and price fluctuations.
Beef and dairy farms, along with contractors, have been busy cutting, carting, rolling and covering the remainder of the corn crop - forecast to be Queensland's biggest since 2015-16 at 124,000 tonnes - as well as forage sorghum.
At Jondaryan on the Darling Downs, Stockyard's Kerwee feedlot mill manager Luke Gaske said the good rain and corn price allowed them to fill their 13,000t of storage.
"We never know what next season's price will be, so if we can put more in pits during a good season, we've got that carry over of the cheaper stock on hand, which waters down our realised value at the back end," Mr Gaske said.
With 19,500 Wagyu and Angus cattle to feed and 30 tonnes of silage going out per day, Mr Gaske plans well in advance, signing contracts with local growers for certain tonnages and then pays contractors a processing fee to get the crop in the pits.
"We'll contract more and remain full, as opposed to contracting 12 months worth, getting to the next season, then contracting another 12 months. At one point, we contracted 18 months worth just to give us that buffer," Mr Gaske said.
Kerwee has always grown a small amount of dryland crops, but as it looks to further reducing its risk, it has invested in irrigation equipment.
"We put a big centre pivot in this year, so we'll grow a corn silage crop every year, then through the winter we'll look to grow a cereal crop either for hay or backgrounding as we continue to improve our infrastructure and reduce our overheads and input costs," Mr Gaske said.
Priebbenow Silage Contractors director Brendan Priebbenhow, who has been travelling across the Downs cutting mostly forage sorghum crops since January, said Australia's worst drought in 2019 motivated farmers to get prepared.
"2019 was the worst of it and kicked people in the backside and got them moving. As soon as they had some decent weather, they've been able to grow a crop and put a fair bit away," Mr Priebbenhow said.
"The majority of what we do is for large feedlots that consistently use silage in their feed rations, but in the last couple of years, a lot of our customers have been putting half a metre of dirt on top of their stacks to make sure it stays sealed for long term storage."
Mr Priebbenhow and his team experienced their biggest summer crop harvest in their 30-year history in 2020-21, cutting 210,000 tonnes.
With Central Queensland on the radar for June, he said this year's harvest could be 120,000 to 150,000 tonnes.
The team relies on a convoy of equipment to get the job done, including a Case Steiger 500 tractor, three Claas Jaguar 960 forage harvesters, four JCB loaders, and nine Kenworth trucks - five of which are eight-wheeler body trucks and four are prime movers with walking floors trailers.
With 1500 hours a year spent in each harvester and a lifespan of 4000 hours, the business goes through plenty of gear.
So much, in fact, that the chairman of major Claas distributor Landpower, Herby Whyte, sent the business a video message for their recent 30-year celebration, congratulating them on buying the most Claas forage harvesters in Australian history.
After CQ this month, the team move onto barley and oat silage from August to November.
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