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AS global demand for hay continues to
grow, Mid North grower Kym
I'Anson has developed a quality
assurance system to place his family busi-
ness in a better position to compete in inter-
He said the foreign demand for Australian
oaten hay was growing because of the consis-
tency of product, its performance as a feed-
stock for animals, and competitive pricing.
"There're new opportunities opening up,
particularly in the Middle East and the United
Arab Emirates, and there are big markets
opening up in China with a growing popula-
tion and a robust dairy industry," he said.
"China can't grow the roughage feed they
need so that, along with the mainstay markets
of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, suggests to me
that there is great opportunity to continue to
grow oaten hay for the export market."
Mr I'Anson and his family crop 1700
hectares near Marrabel. The soils range from
heavy red clay to shallow grey shale and deep
black soils and their average annual rainfall is
"The land is also very sodic so it's a very dif-
ficult soil to manage. We can only grow a very
limited range of crop types which is why
oaten hay fits very well into this soil as it
copes with the acid sodic soils which are pret-
ty typical of here," he said.
"We can't grow a lot of pulses, so we usual-
ly rotate the oaten hay with canola and wheat.
Oaten hay is a competitive crop and helps us
manage our weeds."
At a research update held by the GRDC ear-
lier this year, oaten hay was identified as a key
non-chemical tool that farmers use in the
fight against weeds, such as rye grass.
The GRDC update also focused on the need
for high-quality oaten hay to secure future
demand and help exporters expand capacity.
Mr I'Anson said the development of a QA
system came about because the market for
oaten hay, whether for export or domestic use,
was driven by quality.
"We've been specialist seed growers for well
over 20 years and we developed a QA system
for grain so it was a natural progression to
apply it to hay," he said.
"Now the entire hay industry is requiring
that people grow their hay under QA because
it is a traceable product.
"With a QA system in place, we know what
is expected in growing a crop of oaten hay to
meet the quality parameters of the interna-
Sowing rates, fertiliser application rates, cut-
ting times, baling and storage methods were
critical to the end product being of the best
"Each one of the bales has an individual bar
code and you can trace that right back to the
crop and the farm," he said.
"I think it's much easier to trace than grain
is. The system works quite well and the end
buyers are very happy."
With quality being key for the oaten hay
export market, Mr I'Anson implemented pre-
cision agriculture technology into the family
operation in 1999 to improve the consistency
of the end product.
"For example, where you put too much
nitrogen on your oaten hay, it falls over and
becomes very rank and inedible so either you
won't have a market for it or you'll get a very
poor price for it," he said.
"So we started variable rate spreading nitro-
gen to oaten hay paddocks to produce a more
consistent crop that had good standability and
improved the overall crop quality.
"We use precision ag for yield mapping,
applying phosphorus, nitrogen and seed. We
also use it to apply lime and gypsum -- they are
very expensive inputs and if you can variably
apply them to at least 30 per cent of your pad-
dock there are a lot of cost savings to be
Mr I'Anson said the use of VRT has
increased the consistency of the farm's yields.
"We don't get a lot of rainfall so we can't
achieve a very high yield, but what we can do
is improve the average yield," he said.
"With the hay we're getting an average range
of 8-9 tonnes/ha instead of 3-12t/ha so that
makes a huge difference to the overall consis-
tency of the end product.
"It's very hard to put a figure on what we've
saved but we are talking tens of thousands.
We've saved $20,000-30,000 on lime inputs
alone in the past three years. Our phosphorus
is back about 28pc on our usage across the
"There are a lot of savings everywhere and
we probably don't try and quantify those any-
more because we know we are saving a lot of
• Need to know more?
Oaten hay system a
cut above the rest
Kym I'Anson developed a quality assurance system to place his family farming business in a better
position to compete in international markets.
Oaten hay demand growing
Middle East, UAE, China big markets
Key non-chemical weed control tool
Each one of the bales has an
individual bar code and you
can trace that right back to
the crop and the farm.
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