Harvest Management – Share Farming, in Condobolin, Central Western NSW


Harvest management case study 2: Darren Miles


Location: Condobolin NSW

Contractor: Darren Miles.

Enterprises: Share farming, contract harvesting.

Darren leases and share farms approximately 1600 ha as well as running a contract farming business at Condobolin and surrounding districts, mainly Grenfell and Cowra. He generally harvests around 3000 to 4000 hectares.

He farms mostly wheat and canola in rotation after a conventional fallow, depending on whether it’s practical to sow canola in any given season.

He has been contract harvesting for fifteen years, the biggest changes in that time being the increase in size of machinery and the introduction of new crops into the farming systems.

Harvest stubble management: Darren has noticed a need to cut stubbles shorter after a run of better seasons have created denser stubble loads, though wider row spacing’s have certainly helped to avoid problems with the following crop at sowing.

He’s noticed those in the east of the area with higher stubble loads are using burning as a tool more frequently than those in the west of the region.

He feels this is also due to inter-row sowing becoming “filled up” after two years when stubble is slow to break down.

Paddock Mapping: Darren provides yield mapping as a service to his clients although so far he had few requests for the service in the Central West area. One problem he has encountered is the inexperience of some of his foreign drivers. They are not thinking of the following year or the year after, they just want to get over the country as quick as they can.

So Darren makes a concerted effort to ensure the drivers are carrying out the client’s wishes and offering the required services and prefers to use locals wherever he can.

With clients that do require yield mapping Darren processes the information on his own computer and emails the data to clients.

Weeds: One problem Darren is noticing is by some farmers grazing stubbles some weeds are not being sprayed out in the fallow phase. So although reducing stubble loads for the following crop the downside is less effective weed control.

Relationship with clients: Darren has had just one client using controlled traffic farming at this stage but other clients are starting to express an interest in going down that path. He feels he can accommodate in most cases.

An issue he is finding with harvesting in stubble retained systems is the balancing act between cutting stubble low enough to please clients, yet making the client understand the extra cost and time involved in doing so. [NB: Quite possibly this is a sound reason for an umbrella group such as Australian Custom Harvesters – to set equitable pricing for the industry as a whole].

Darren believes growers may be better off to come in post-harvest with a disc chain or harrows if concerned about paying extra for lower stubble heights at harvest.

Biosecurity is important to Darren and he cleans his header as effectively as possible between each property.

Soil health and profitability: One important feature to Darren about stubble retained systems is spending fewer hours on the tractor, good not only for health and well being but also reducing operating costs.

A reduction in soil erosion across the area has been noticeable, as has in increase in water retention under stubble.

Project Name: Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble in Central West NSW

Project Number: CWF00018