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Harvesting contractors face year of huge loss

Dalby harvesting contractor Cliff WeierFARMERS across the Eastern States have keenly felt the loss of bumper crops, but harvesting contractors share their pain.

Dalby contractor Cliff Weier said by this point in the season, he’d have hoped that his header driver would have clocked up 400 hours. So far, he’s done 130, most of them complicated.

“We’ve harvested enough to make some payments on the gear, but this season will be a huge loss for us,” Mr Weier said.

Watching the conditions come together for an outstanding crop during 2010, Mr Weier pencilled in some long-term Queensland clients but decided not to take on extra work further afield. “I didn’t think we’d cope,” he said.

That proved a good move, but not for the reasons he expected.

The stripping of paddock after paddock was delayed by rain and moisture, and the undone jobs snowballed.

“That’s the hardest thing about this harvesting game: maintaining your credibility,” Mr Weier said. “Everyone’s crop is the most important one, and it’s not easy to say you can’t get there to get it off.”

Every sector has its horror stories of the season, and harvesting contractors are no exception.

One colleague of Mr Weier’s started harvesting on a property in Warren, NSW, in November, and only was able to finish last week.

Another, who had just bought a new header, found his gear stranded on one property in central western NSW for 13 weeks—seven of which he spent in a caravan, watching the rain.

Mr Weier had a header motor blow up, and spent three clear days repairing it. Then the rain returned. Weeks later, he’s only just managed to finish up at that property because of those lost days.

“The worst thing about this harvest was how cool it was,” he said. “Sometimes the moisture would stay in the grain for three days after rain.”

Now Mr Weier is putting the blighted past behind him, and looking to the future.

On his own country—800 ha “Fairview” near Dalby and 250 ha of leased land nearby—the sorghum is looking phenomenal.

“The worst of our sorghum will at this stage go 7t/ha, and it’s all up from there.”

Like everyone with the ability to grow a summer crop, Mr Weier is hoping this particular harvest will go some way toward making up for the recent nightmare.

“I just hope that the blokes we work for pull this one out the hat,” Mr Weier said. “Everyone needs it.”

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