Much-needed rainfall has been more than enough to outweigh the Wood family’s concerns about the softening barley price. Water has been scarce at the Kendenup property, where Clayton Wood, pictured, and his family this year cleaned out all 20 of their dams for the first time in 20 years. The farmers were relieved to tip between 18mm and 30mm of rain out of the gauges on Monday after WA’s “storm of the decade” delivered exactly what they needed. The rain has sidelined concerns about the barley price, which dipped 40 per cent after China recently revealed it would impose an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley imports. “This rain has been our saving grace,” Clayton said. “Things were looking a bit grim and we were questioning our decisions. Now that it has rained we are feeling pretty good.” The Woods did scale back their barley plantings this year, subbing about 120ha of barley with canola in response to the tariffs. But Clayton said the family was not “majorly worried” about the barley price because they would happily keep a lot of their barley harvest on farm. “If the price is low we will just bag it up and see what happens,” he said. “We kept two grain bags, which are nearly 450 tonnes each, full of barley for sheep feed last year. “At least now we have had rain, we know we will be growing some barley. Rosalind goes really well as a sheep feed and it yields quite well.” The Wood family started seeding on May 1, a “little bit later than usual” due to the dry conditions. They started with 300ha of canola and 50ha of faba beans, and then switched to 900ha pasture, and expect to finish in the next 10 days. Clayton farms with his brother Jeremy, his parents Brad and Roxane, his grandfather John, and a full-time worker. A fourth-generation farmer, Clayton returned to the property in April last year but has been helping at seeding or harvest each year since he was 18. The family plans to seed 1500ha of crop as well as their 900ha pasture program to help feed their 6000 multi-purpose Merino breeders. Their program includes 550ha of InVigor T4510 canola, 200ha of Rosalind barley, 450ha of Sceptre and Zen wheat, 120ha of field peas, 50ha of faba beans, and 100ha of oats. The Woods first started growing faba beans five years ago due to the rotation benefits, and kept them in the program after that 40ha trial paddock in 2016. Each year, the Woods harvest pea straw, grass hay and oaten hay to fatten their sheep and sell square bales of pea hay direct to customers in Albany. After a dry summer, they welcomed 31mm just days after they started seeding. Another 16-30mm fell across different parts of the farm on Sunday and Monday, adding to the 31mm which at the time was first “substantial rain” since November. The weekend’s rain fell before ferocious winds set in on Sunday afternoon — meaning their crops avoided the sandblasting that hit crops in the Mid West. “Our blocks near Kendenup got 18mm, and another block closer to Frankland got about 30mm,” Clayton. “That Frankland block is purely pasture, so that will hopefully get up and about and we can run sheep there. That will make things a lot easier. “We were looking at videos of the dust swirling up north and feeling thankful it wasn’t us,” Clayton said. “We are not that far from the coast so we always get dribs and drabs of rain, but it was getting to a point where we really need some rain and run off.” He said it had been the driest 18 months experienced at Kendenup. They have been carting water from a standpipe in town to water sheep. “We are running quite a few sheep, so we had a bit of a later start because we didn’t have any moisture in the ground,” Clayton said. “It is dry and there are not a lot of sheep around, so we have been hand feeding sheep since December.” With various types of clover and rye grass in the ground for pasture, the Woods hope the recent rainfall will help to germinate that and give them some much-needed feed. Sheep play an integral part in their operation, with a focus on fat lamb production meaning they offload wethers and run mostly Merino ewes. The Woods source rams from Gelndemar Merino stud, sending them across the border from Marnoo, in the Wimmera region of Victoria. Cutting and storing their own pea hay has played a big part in keeping the sheep in good condition, but the Woods are still hoping for a “bit of grass to grow”. “We didn’t want them to lose condition and to try and get them back,” Clayton said. “We started hand feeding early so they didn’t drop away, and it has definitely showed. They are in great condition now.” The Woods sold 600 head to a New South Wales buyer through Elders earlier this month, including 450 lambing ewes and 150 dry sheep. The sheep were loaded onto a road train, joining the nearly 700,000 head that have been sent from WA to the eastern states since the start of the year.