Canola yield buoys brothers in dry year

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Williams brothers Noel Fowler and Willliam Fowler farm their properties side-by-side for efficiencies as they share mutual management programs and grain marketing strategies.
Camera IconWilliams brothers Noel Fowler and Willliam Fowler farm their properties side-by-side for efficiencies as they share mutual management programs and grain marketing strategies. Credit: Countryman

Harvest is in full swing at the Fowler family’s Rapanui Pastoral at Williams with canola in the bin with surprising results while the barley, wheat and oats are next in line, just in time for Christmas.

Noel Fowler, who oversees his family’s harvest, kicked off with 1200ha of Bonita canola on November 1 with the crop yielding more than two tonnes per hectare.

Countryman caught up with Mr Fowler last week while he was in the midst of negotiating a barley deal and managing the repair of a broken down harvester.

Challenged with an endless list of things to do, Mr Fowler was undeterred knowing the grain was coming off better than expected.

“My busy day started with the joy of my son’s kindergarten orientation in Williams,” he said.

“My wife, Sandra, and I have two boys, Lawson, 3, and Harrison, 1.

“Our succession plan is in quite good order.”

Noel Fowler oversees his family's harvest which is in full swing with canola in the bin and the balance of barley, wheat and oats on schedule for a pre-Christmas finish.
Camera IconNoel Fowler oversees his family's harvest which is in full swing with canola in the bin and the balance of barley, wheat and oats on schedule for a pre-Christmas finish. Credit: Countryman

Mr Fowler is a third-generation farmer at his family’s 6300ha arable Rapanui Pastoral property.

His older brother, William, farms Yellagong Farm, that borders Rapanui and they both share harvest management programs and grain marketing strategies.

“It was a dry year, with only 380mm of rain, to our normal 440mm, so we were super happy to get a better canola yield than expected,” Mr Fowler said.

“More than two tonne was surprising.

The Fowler family used a 45 foot swather for their canola harvest.
Camera IconThe Fowler family used a 45 foot swather for their canola harvest. Credit: Countryman

“From our dry seed sowing start on July 14, harvest began October 20 with a 45-foot swather.

“Using it now for three seasons, we find it more efficient than your standard 36 to 40 footer.”

Mr Fowler co-manages his family’s two-farm harvest, involving seven full-time farm workers and six casual staff, between the operations of cropping and livestock.

Two harvesters are put to good use, with a third as backup, and a transport contractor delivers eight 60-tonne loads per day.

The Fowlers are making good progress for a timely schedule for a pre-Christmas finish.

The Fowlers Williams farm gets a start on Magenta wheat.
Camera IconThe Fowlers Williams farm gets a start on Magenta wheat. Credit: Countryman

“While we have a third header as a backup, we can only run two at a time to keep the transport wheels rolling,” Mr Fowler said.

“William also delivers a few loads with his trailer rig as it’s ideal to deliver up to 10 loads per day.”

The Fowler brothers and their shared team work together to harvest the two farming properties for maximum efficiencies.

“We are halfway through 1200ha of Spartacus barley, yielding 3.5 tonne,” Mr Fowler said.

“We’re on day two of 1200ha of Magenta wheat.”

The Fowlers will finish on 2000ha of oats to cap off the 2020 harvest.

Rapanui Pastoral also runs a flock of 25,000 self-replacing Merinos which will be in line to feed on stubbles throughout the summer.

The Fowlers use Petersen Transport to haul grain to the Narrakine CBH bin, a distance of 22kls, allowing eight to nine loads daily.
Camera IconThe Fowlers use Petersen Transport to haul grain to the Narrakine CBH bin, a distance of 22kls, allowing eight to nine loads daily. Credit: Countryman

The Fowler brothers’ grandfather, Aubrey Fowler and his younger brother Tom, established the family’s farming legacy when they ran 3300 acres of poison-ridden bushland called Congeling Park, at Williams in 1924.

Within 20 years the property had become the leading producer of clover seed in Australia.

In the hard years of the 30s and 40s, Fowler Bros clover seed played its role in bringing big areas of WA farming land into useful and economic production.

Aubrey planted clover back in 1924 — onto newly cleared land at one end of the property called Westmere.

This clover was the first Dwalgarnup early variety in WA’s Great Southern.

Today, Aubrey Fowler & Co, from the success of Jamie and Jo Fowler ambitious farm developments, passes its succession of businesses to the next generation at Rapanui Pastoral and Yellagong Farm.

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