Rain at last for Rob Warburton in Australia

After a month of hot, dry weather, it’s rained. In fact, it hasn’t stopped raining.

For as dry as the month of May was, June has been the complete opposite; for all the dust that was driving me mad before the rain, the wet, boggy paddocks are now the problem. I’m one of the typical farmers that complains that it’s too dry then its too wet.

I wonder how many businesses other than farming have to deal with such variable terms of trade? One month ago we where seeding into dry paddocks with the price of wheat at a level that it would be hard to turn a profit. Today we have news that the USA and Russia are too dry and the price of wheat has risen AUS$50/t (£32).

Imagine if you had just invented the idea of farming and you are about to go and pitch the idea to a group of investors. What do you think the chances are they would invest?

“We should buy some land in Western Australia, where in some years you’ll receive 600mm of rain and in others you’ll get 100mm. You have little or no control over the price you receive for the grain or the inputs required to grow it and yields vary from 0.7t/ha to 5t/ha and it’s all available for AUS$5m with an average long-term return on capital of 2.5%.”

The answer is you’d be stark raving mad. Yet this is what we do. There has to be a reason for this madness; maybe it’s for the one year in 10 when yield and price come together, maybe the lifestyle benefits outweigh the negative years. I don’t know what it is, but I do know I love it and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Rob Warburton farms 3,000ha with his wife Jen and two daughters in Kojonup, below Perth, in Western Australia. Cropping includes wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Wildflower seed is grown for retail. Merino sheep are reared for wool and meat.


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