MALLEE farmer Ken Scroop made the switch from operating a vineyard contracting business to running a cropping enterprise a decade ago following a downward trend in the wine industry. He has worked across a range of primary production sectors, such as sugar, livestock, cropping and viticulture, and was trained as a diesel mechanic.
Mr Scroop spent time working in Queensland in the sugar industry and dryland farming and later moved to the Riverland in South Australia where he was instrumental in redeveloping vineyards after the Federal Government paid growers to pull vines out. But seeing the start of a downward trend in the wine industry – and not wanting to let go of his employees from his vineyard contracting business – Mr Scroop changed direction into dryland farming in the early 2000s.
Mr Scroop crops 6475 hectares at Lowbank and Maggea, of which 1618ha is share farmed. The cropping program is mainly restricted to wheat and barley, with the aim of achieving the top-quality hard wheat the district is known for.
Everything Mr Scroop does in his cropping enterprise is focused on one thing – keeping things simple. This focus led him to investing in a 18.3-metre Tobin disc drill for the 2012 seeding program.
Plenty of research went into buying the machine. “It took me two years to make my mind up about the seeder bar,” Mr Scroop said. “I didn’t want a small disc – a bigger disc is easier to run through rough country.” Self-sharpening, large discs were a major drawing point for Mr Scroop when choosing the Tobin drill.
“Stubble doesn’t worry it, and there’s no issues with getting through paddy melons,” he said. Mr Scroop picked the seeder up from Forbes, NSW, in February after buying it through BMS Ag in Tanunda, SA. “I was looking for a local product, not an overseas product, mainly for back-up reasons,” he said. “The main reason I went with the Tobin machine was because it is very low-maintenance. Everything on the bar is made big, including all the pins on it.” With the previous seeder bar, Mr Scroop found that repairing had become a fulltime job at seeding time. “While it wasn’t too bad on sandy country, as soon as you went onto stony country it became very high-maintenance,” he said.
After using the new discseeder for the first time this season, Mr Scroop is confident it will save him an extra job each year.
“I’ve been using a stone roller every year but this year, after using the Tobin disc machine, I haven’t brought any big tones up,” he said. “The way it’s looking at the moment, I won’t have to use a roller next year. I estimate I’ll save $35,000 from that alone.”
Mr Scroop says the bar will also help him move to 100 per cent no-till farming. “I’m hoping this is the last year I have to work-up any country,” he said. Mr Scroop always prefers to use local product and runs a Gason seeder box made at Ararat. His Sonic 10,000-litre, 38m boomspray was bought through BMS Ag and can spray at up to 40 kilometres an hour.
A major selling point with the Sonic spray was the fact that parts could be easily picked up at local shops. “I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible, and I don’t want to have to worry about getting parts,” he said.