Being adaptable the key to farming

Angaston’s William Hurn on his property.

Changing seasons, water sources, feed and stock are among the challenges farmers face today.

But for Angaston’s William Hurn he wouldn’t have any other role as he farms 1,800 sheep and 25 cows on 400 hectares together with 12 hectares of vineyard on the edge of the township.

As National Agricultural Day was recognised last week, William took some time out to reflect on the agriculture sector.

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“Farmers are always optimistic,” said William.

“In this area you are blessed with a good place to live, a good climate, sound rainfall and you grow quality.

“It is a balancing act.. sometimes a dollar or two extra is the difference to a profit or loss.”

Like many of his counterparts William faces a 24 hour, seven day a week venture.

He takes on the mantra of it’s made around to go around and recognised the “add on” industries that benefit from agriculture.

And while they reap the reward from the land, William also recognised the importance of putting back into the property.

“You have to farm the soil and put back in what comes out,” said William.

“And all of that means spelling land and not overgrazing and having a fertilising regime that’s right and the trees are important.

“Looking after the country, not just for me. We take pride in our work and it is a special part of the world we live in.”

William says it is exciting to see a new era come into the industry and says he is still learning.

“I have breakfast and I am at work, that’s the downside to being a farmer, you work 24/7 but you do it because you love it,” said William.

“Every year is a little different and you always tweak things… the challenge being a farmer is to not be a perfectionist.”

William didn’t have to reference too far in the region before he came across not just farmers but industry leaders.

He said these people are at the cutting edge of their industry utilising new technology with maximum efficiencies.

Being adaptable is an important part of the sector and according to William, you have to be able to capitalise on the opportunities that arise.

Good lamb and sheep prices have, according to William, been one of the saviours during the drought.

“But it has forced people to sell stock and they are getting reasonable prices,” said William.

Changing rain profiles with the same amount of rain days in the month but not the same volume is concerning and again forces the farmer to be more adaptable in their practices.

“There is not the quantity there which means you don’t get the run off. The soil profile is not saturated and it’s crucial in this country because we don’t have the luxury of town water,” said William.

“One of the issues now is with the decrease in rainfall… what is then the optimum stocking rate? We will be all geared up in coming weeks when the rams are out and are geared for an average season but what is an average season
if you don’t have enough sheep or stock?

“It has been one of the windiest springs that I can remember and going forward, water will be an issue with the hot dry summer, stock chomp a lot of water.”

Increasing his water options at the property including an additional bore near the house has been taken on by William who adds not everyone is able to tap into that resource.

William identified the challenge to manage stock when there’s a lack of water and cited if there’s not an ability to run stock on some paddocks then there becomes a fire risk.

“Carting water is a huge expense and you can’t get enough and I see that getting worse,” said William.

Taking seriously the main road location for his “office”, William said he and fellow farmers are constantly checking the appearance of the paddocks, in particular for dead or sick sheep.

“I don’t think the general community appreciate the pride that the farmer has on the appearance of the land being conscious it is a tourist area,” said William.