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Victorian farmer earns $3600/ha with graze and grain canola

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article image Wilson is farm manager at the 2300-hectare merino and lamb operation
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A dual-purpose canola crop helped southwest Victorian farmer Tom Wilson get returns of more than $3600 per hectare in his very first season.

Wilson, farm manager at the 2300-hectare (ha) merino and lamb operation Salt Creek in Woorndoo, Victoria had grown canola for grain before but he wanted to branch out to dual-purpose canola for both graze and grain. Though he went into his first season not knowing what to expect, he is now sold on the idea of the dual-purpose crop after seeing the returns.

“We’ve grown grazing cereals like red wheat and regular canola, but this was the first time growing grazing canola,” he said.

“We needed to find some opportunity feed for late autumn and early winter, and rather than growing annual ryegrass or silage which gives you one shot, we liked the added bonus of a cash crop.

“We looked at it a few times in the district and our agronomist suggested we give it a try.”

He decided to plant 50ha of Hyola 970CL in mid-December 2018 following 70mm of rain, but then the tap turned off until the following May.

“It was very hardy considering we had little rain for the first half of the year.”

Wilson grazed lambs on it in March-April and June, harvested the crop for grain in December 2019 and did a third grazing in January-February this year.

The crop was sown at 3kg/ha. The fertiliser program included 80kg//ha of MAP at plant, 1t/ha of lime and 400kg/ha of gypsum in March, 150kg/ha of urea in mid-June and 200kg/ha of urea in mid-August.

Looking at the total life of the crop from December 2018 to February 2020, it received 650mm of rain.

For the March-April grazing, he put 1500 lambs on the canola and recorded a total weight gain of 3.25kg per lamb over five weeks. Across the 1500 lambs, that was 4875kg of weight gain, and at $4/kg, equated to $19,500 or $390/ha.

For the June grazing, he put 3000 ewe lambs on the canola for 10 days for a 2.5kg gain per animal. That was 7500kg total, and at $4/kg, equated to a return of $30,000 or $600/ha.

The harvest on December 30 was just as impressive, with Wilson seeing an average yield of 4t/ha and an oil content of 46 per cent. At $611/t plus oil bonus, he made $2556/ha.

The final January-February grazing consisted of 1000 lambs over eight weeks. The animals gained 1.5kg each, which was 1500kg total for a return of $6000 or $120/ha.

Combining the three grazings and grain harvest gave Salt Creek a total return of $3666/ha.

Wilson, who has managed the property since 2012, said the return was excellent.

“Nothing has come close to that return. It’s a great fit for a mixed farming enterprise and I’ll be planting more this year.”

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