Fodder farmers seek higher returns in grain
A TOUR of Monto's winter crops provided food for thought for the district's farmers, highlighting promising reasons to switch from fodder to grain.
An alliance of primary producers say they have unearthed the key to sustainable success and are campaigning for more acres under crop in the Three Moon catchment.
The recently-founded Monto Growers Group this month took part in an excursion to local farms to educate growers on the latest farming practices and machinery.
A group of 15 visited the properties of Tyson Jarvis, Anthony Sanderson, Brad Forsyth, Russell Larsen, Rob Salisbury and Brendan Gardiner, with a quick pit stop for lunch over a beer at the Mungungo Pub.
The group's president, Matthew Pattie, said the region relies on its traditional staples livestock and fodder, but wants encourage local producers to think outside square and give themselves an additional income stream.
He described feed grains like corn as a "win-win” - a low risk investment that would benefit growers, graziers and diversify the local agricultural economy.
"Because of Monto's dairy and beef industries the norm has been to grow lucerne,” Mr Pattie said.
"But now, with advancements in agronomy and new farming techniques, the yield of corn is three time higher than what you would have got back in the day.
"The average returns we're seeing guys get ranges from 10 to 15 tonne per hectare.
"There's a shortage of grain right across the east coast and prices are at record levels.
"There's a ready-made market for it in Monto too at Bailey Creek Piggery.”
Growers have been capitalising on strong grain prices and the group stopped to admire the spring corn crop at Mr Forsyth's Moonford farm.
Unlike pulse crops, corn weathers well and is not prone to disease.
Mr Pattie said the success of Mr Forsyth's operation was evidence there is money to be made.
"In the last 18 months growers have started to give it some thought,” he said.
"Brad moved away from fodder crops to corn for a variety of reasons.
"Lucerne is a long-term crop and the sales are staggered. Corn is once a year - it's all over and done with in six or seven months.
"There's better financial returns; you're able to sell straight away, locally, all in one go; it's far less labour-intensive to grow; and the outlay on machinery is a lot less too.
"We have local blokes who can plant, harvest and cart it. If you want to cash in then now is the time.”
The Monto Growers Group hopes to run bus trips more frequently and growers are encouraged to join their Facebook group and become a member.
The next meeting will be a Christmas party of sorts and will be held on December 5.