Yielding up at YALLAROI
Photography I Kim Miller
The Gilmour family is breaking records with precision timing and precision technology. With a family history in farming of almost 100 years, Rosie O’Keeffe discovers how they are reaping the rewards from their investments in innovation.
For farmers Richard and Harry Gilmour, timing is everything.
Whilst their own farming properties span between Yallaroi and North Star in northern NSW including main farms “The Brothers”. “Mygumyah” and family farm “Emoh Ruo”, the decision to evolve their enterprise and invest in the latest technologies, adapting to changing seasonal and market conditions has ensured ongoing productivity and profitability.
When I speak with Harry, he is just finishing planting this season’s winter crops in early winter after rain events delayed planting.
“We’ve been lucky we’ve had a good run where we are. The job we’ve just finished at Croppa Creek is on a very flat countryside and water tends to lay there meaning it can take longer to bring the machinery back into those paddocks. Once we are getting a good run, we are getting a lot done,” Harry says.
Despite the wet start to the season, the Gilmour family is hoping for another successful harvest after they recorded the biggest yields they have ever experienced and the first sorghum harvest in three years.
“Sorghum averaged more than 6 tonne per hectare and wheat was between 6 and 7 tonne per hectare. The chickpeas we planted unfortunately got hailed out last year and we decided not to plant them this year due to market conditions,” Harry explains. “Our yields are certainly increasing and prices seem to be holding firm. We have wheat, durum wheat, and sorghum being planted this year.
“We’ve always grown wheat. My grandparents always grew wheat and barley, but we are finding it more challenging to find a market for barley and there are better results from the wheat crops. We’ve always grown sorghum and we keep the same rotation every year.
“We are looking towards a larger scale summer program this year with the way the crops have come in with some issues identified with crown rot on the wheat on wheat paddocks. Our Delta agronomist Leigh Norton advises us on what is going to be a challenge and how to manage it and that certainly contributes to our productivity too.”
Richard has been involved in farming since 1979, and agriculture was also always a passion of Harry’s, and despite completing a building apprenticeship, he always intended to return to the region.
“I’ve always been involved in assisting in the busier seasonal periods, even when I was still finishing high school and I’ve been doing more ever since – summer and winter crop planting, spraying, harvesting and the transport too,” Harry says.
Whilst Richard and Harry have focused on crop management in recent times, with the family involved in farming for almost 100 years, previous generations had used the land for grazing livestock.
“We are in a very reliable area. In the whole of my father’s lifetime, there has only been one season we haven’t pulled the header out of the shed and that was in 2019,” Harry says.
“We are more focussed in grain production, but I do see benefit in having a mix of grain and livestock. We’ve been really trying to improve our country and get the most out of our soils in recent years.
“Our land is very undulating country so there is a lot of work to maintain it with contour banks and waterways, but we are working with the storage of grain and exclusion fencing to the adjacent national parks.”
Improving soil health has been a focus of the Gilmour family with the landscape mainly heavy black soils and some heavier red soils. Richard and Harry have also invested in rebuilding contour banks, silo infrastructure, and fencing programs, and they have expanded their enterprise to include contract planting, spraying and harvesting.
The Gilmour family initially established their contracting enterprise as an extension of their farming operation due to high land prices and limited opportunities to increase land scale, as well as justifying investing in the latest technology and machinery for crop production.
Harry says with the latest summer machinery implements from Boss Agriculture fitted with Precision Seeding Solutions products, including electric V-drives, delta force, furrow force and clean sweep, has assisted in achieving maximum growth in the establishment of plants.
“We also run three Boss Agriculture winter bars which have also been fitted with delta force and PSS Ag seed monitoring system.” Harry is only aware of five planters in Australia with the same technology the Gilmour family operates, and they have three of them.
“This machinery with Delta Force hydraulic downforce allows us to achieve the best results we can for ourselves and our clients,” Harry says.
It was 10 years ago, in 2012, the contracting business was established and it has now grown to include large-scale growers covering a landscape within a 100km radius of the Gilmour’s own farmland.
“We are self-sufficient. We find that most growers prefer to contract that way so if we have a planting job to go to, we’ll supply the trucks and fuel trailers to get the job done after consulting with the farm managers. One of the challenges is the timing of everything. The window for sowing certain varieties of crops is getting more narrow.
“It is also getting difficult to secure affordable and available farm labour, especially in our region. We are lucky we do have one full-time employee as well as reliable casuals. The contracting has provided us reliable income though and it has certainly enabled us to continue to invest in the latest and greatest technology in our machinery, and make it all more economically viable.”
In addition to crop production, Richard’s wife, Donna Gilmour, owns and operates three Elders Insurance branches located in Moree, Narrabri and Inverell. As well, Harry’s fiancée Britney Ryan is a chartered accountant at C&W financial services in Moree.
The Gilmour family have also continued to run a herd of commercial cattle. Harry says there is a mix of Angus and Shorthorn cattle, but with their neighbours operating a Senepol cattle stud, known as Planchonella Hill Senepols, these cattle have been brought in to enhance the breeding of bulls and use more of the Gilmour’s grazing paddocks.
“We are finding that since 2019, yields have been increasing every year. Last year was definitely the biggest year we’ve had since we’ve been here and this year is already shaping up to be just as productive. We know that with the precision agriculture sowing equipment we’ve invested in is paying off, being a major factor in yield improvement, especially in our own properties.
“We are already looking towards the next summer crop planting of sorghum in early spring, then cotton planting after that. Hopefully there will be more records from this year’s plantings.”