Handy DPI calculator helps farmers make tough drought decisions

The State Government’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has developed a calculator which helps farmers make decisions on the future of their failing crops, Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said today.

Minister Macdonald said the computer spreadsheet calculates the cost of baling crops for hay or silage, and taking crops through to harvest.

“With many crops across the State on the brink of complete failure, farmers need to make informed decisions and carefully look at costs associated with each management option,” Minister Macdonald said.

“There are quite a few costs associated with turning crops to hay or silage such as cutting, conditioning, raking, baling and wrapping costs (in the case of baled silage).  These costs also interact with dry matter yields and bale size and make it confusing.”

“The calculator allows farmers to input data for their own situation so as to see what their own costs can expect to be – it is part of a new direction being taken by the State Government to help farmers in NSW during the worst drought in 100 years.”

NSW DPI district agronomist at Forbes, Ken Motley, said the calculator allows costs to be worked out on an area, dry matter, product produced and energy basis.

“By knowing costs and having an idea of the product’s potential value, the best economic outcomes can work through more clearly,” Mr Motley said.

“In times of drought it is vital that farmers keep their on-farm expenses minimal, especially when salvaging a crop.

“Estimating yield potentials in dry times is very difficult and once farmers make a decision to salvage either graze-out or cut crops for hay they need to take a few factors into consideration.

“Grazing crops is the cheapest way of trying to utilise the biomass produced where crops have been determined to have poor yield potential not worth harvesting. Choosing to graze crops also has the added benefit that it takes some pressure off pastures.”

“Hay and silage require more initial money outlay than harvesting the grain.

“Hay making costs are typically working out around $100/tonne of dry matter, while silage making costs are more around $140/tonne of dry matter.  With crop fodder dry matter yields of around 1t/ha this works out much dearer than harvesting the grain which will typically only cost around $30/ha.

“It is important that producers check chemical withholding periods before either cutting crops for hay or grazing.”

The NSW DPI drought feed calculator is available for free as an app for your phone from the App Store on iTunes or Google Play.