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Romani wins Premer Shield with MR-Taurus sorghum

April 17, 2018

RomaniPastoralCo

Romani Pastoral Co Mandeville manager Jim Mitchell has won his fourth Premer Shield.

Romani Pastoral Company’s Jim Mitchell has won his fourth Premer Shield in the same year he marks 30 years with the company.

Mr Mitchell, who manages the company’s Mandeville property at Premer, won the coveted sorghum award with a crop of MR-Taurus estimated by a judge to yield 8.5 tonnes per hectare.

His previous wins were in 2001, 2006 and 2007.

The award was one of several presented at the recent Premer Field Day, which is run by the Premer branch of the NSW Farmers’ Association and Field Day Committee and recognises and rewards the efforts of growers in the region.

Mr Mitchell said sorghum is an important crop for the region and particularly for Mandeville because it produces grain in any season and fetches a solid return at harvest.

“We run a traditional, reliable cropping program,” Mr Mitchell said. 

“Primarily in summer it’s sorghum and in winter it’s bread wheat and dual-purpose wheat.  We don’t dabble in alternative crops because of the fluctuations in yield and price.

“I think the best trial is to grow a sorghum variety over five or ten years in good, bad and indifferent seasons, and if it still produces grain, you’re onto a winner.   

“That’s what I’ve done with MR-Buster, which I have been growing for 27 years, and MR-Taurus, which I have been growing since it came out.”

The 3340ha dryland cropping and beef property produces 800ha of wheat and 450ha of sorghum each year, supplementing the 750 EU accredited Angus cows and additional 440 EU accredited Angus trading steers bought yearly.

The program also includes fodder oats, improved tropical grasses on the lighter country and 45ha of specialised Lucerne cutting hay.

Mr Mitchell said the 2017-18 summer was a tougher season than usual, characterised by cold sowing conditions and lower than average growing season rainfall.

“It was a cold start when we began planting on October 31, so we had to up the seeding rate from 65,000 seeds per hectare to 70,000 to compensate.

“The 218mm of in-crop rain wasn’t much but it was well-timed.

The fertiliser program consisted of 50L/ha of liquid starter fertiliser and 130kg/ha of Big N gas.

Working in the grower’s favour, however, was a well-timed paddock rotation.

“The Taurus block came out of long fallow dual purpose wheat, and in these marginal years it helps to have a full profile of moisture, whereas Buster was sown sorghum-on-sorghum.

“The paddock was grazed by 600 Angus steers for seven weeks and then closed off and harvested at 5t/ha in December 2016.

“When sowing 11 months later, we didn’t encounter the same straw problem resulting from the wet winter that a lot of farmers were contending with.”

The sorghum was harvested on April 7 and the grain was sold and delivered to Graincorp Premer for $304/t soon after.

According to Mr Mitchell, his four competition wins could be attributed to a number of factors.

“It comes down to the right timing, crop choice, long fallows, row spacing and fertiliser program, and being in an area with the cooler night conditions and summer rainfall helps too.

“Contractors are used for planting, spraying, harvesting and carting and we don’t have on-farm grain storage, so this lets us put more money into infrastructure like fencing and water.”

Mr Mitchell is supported by one other permanent staff member, with casual workers making up the rest of the workforce.