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Farm in Focus: Matt Ryan, Birchip, Vic

  • By: Farm Tender "Prime"
  • Oct 10, 2017


2000ha, 700 sheep and three trucks keeps Birchip grower Matt Ryan busy. Matt, who farms with his father Tony, brothers Jack and Nick (during school and university holidays) and some additional employees, sows 60 to 70 percent of his property to cereals, and the rest is a mixture of canola, peas, vetch and chemical fallow.

Technology is becoming more prevalent. What technology are you using currently and do you think technology is going to have greater benefits in your livestock or cropping enterprise?

Technology will assist our business in the future, especially now with livestock electronic identification (eID). I see eID technology really being able to assist in a feedlot operation by monitoring weight gain and feed intake to ensure efficiencies and livestock health.

When it comes to cropping where do you start?! GPS has been the big thing in recent times which we use regularly, but maybe something like NDVI when it becomes more accessible. This year we have started using an app with our agronomist which enables us all to keep notes, photos and recommendations. When someone has added information to the shared app it gives me a notification and I can access it wherever and whenever I want. It also helps when there are multiple people working on the property, because otherwise we would have it in individual diaries and notebooks.

Technology costs a lot of money, so it will really depend if you are able and want to invest in it, and there would need to be a return. With the livestock side of the business I think it would be easier to learn a lot more with technology and faster than the crop portion of the business. It is also the livestock side that I believe I have a lot more to learn about.

How important is livestock in your business?

They’re definitely great for cash flow during the season. I enjoyed working with livestock when I was younger, but we got out of having them for a time. The labour intensity of livestock meant that dad was unable to keep them going when I was away. Since I have come back on the farm, we have had livestock back in the system, which means we keep busy. I have a neighbour who I learn a lot from, particularly about livestock, and the more experience I get the better.

Have you experienced any frost damage this season or noticed any other issues affecting your crops?

Not necessarily frost, we were a bit late putting the crop in because we purchased a new air seeder this season, which may be a blessing in disguise. I haven’t seen any damage yet but I will have to look more closely at our Berriwillock block because that was sown a bit earlier. When I have been looking for frost it has been in the early paddocks, given that we don’t really have any significant low lying areas.

Mice haven’t really been an huge issue for us. We did have to re-sow a canola paddock that had a few issues with being too wet, lacking a bit of nitrogen, but it is a paddock we have had issues with in the past. There might have also been a small portion of mice damage, but nothing too significant. You never know what you have done right at cropping until it is harvest time.

We still have a lot of grain in storage. The bunker had about 1200 to 1400 tonnes of wheat in it after harvest, and there’s only a couple of hundred tonnes left. We like having grain in storage not only to average out the season, but it helps keeps the trucks rolling. Dad took a load to Geelong today, with a backload of gravel. We haven’t had any loads rejected, and weevils haven’t been an issue for us.

When it comes to grain marketing we normally do a bit of everything. Sell a bit at harvest and then trickle the rest out during the season. The tradition of selling it all in one go has gone I think, because we have so many options which enable you to get a good overall average price. If you worry about every load of grain you sell, it won’t be good for your health. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.