Managing this season’s bumper crop
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Managing this season’s bumper crop

Category Leadership

Harvest Logistics

The crops across Michael O’Brien’s Come By Chance property are, as he describes ‘magnificent’ – now the challenge is getting them in the bin without any interruptions from Mother Nature.

Amongst a backdrop of labour shortages, Covid restrictions and storing what is predicted to be Australia’s second largest crop on record, the O’Briens are ‘as prepared as we can be’ mitigating any logistical challenges this year’s harvest presents.

Labour has been sourced from traditional platforms – primarily online advertising and word-of-mouth – and five staff, including backpackers, will be ready to start once harvest begins in the coming week or so.

While Michael concedes he was still struggling to get a good number of staff, this was sufficient to start, and he hoped to employ a few more as the season continues.

“With a crop this size the time exposure is a consideration, and weather dependent, so we just want to get it off as quickly as we can,” he said.

Three headers of their own, with complementary mother bins and chaser bins will be supplemented by another two contractors, both relatively local who have worked with the O’Briens previously.

All up, eight headers will harvest the family’s primarily wheat and chick pea operation this year – a workforce which Michael smiled ‘should make a good dent in it’.

Storing this year’s bumper crop has been another consideration, with Michael, Annie and Tom having created extra on-farm storage including two open-air bunkers that will hold over 20,000 tonnes of grain as well as three large, well-roofed grain sheds. Existing on-farm silos, Michael said, were sufficient to house their chick peas.

However at the end of the day he said the weather could prove harvest’s most inevitable logistical challenge.

“Storms causing delays, or a hot run ripening the whole crop at the same time puts enormous pressure on the operation – so all we can do is be prepared as possible and cross everything for kind harvest weather.”

Rabobank’s Luke Smith said the O’Briens thorough preparation was indicative of most clients across the region, with weather concerns and labour availability being the leading issues. 

“The crop in the north west is significant and it will be a fantastic result for our farmers if the harvest can be captured without major downgrading,” he said.

“Mice and on-farm storage options also rank as major concerns – but as Michael said, ‘all we can do is be prepared’.

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