Farmer in Focus: John Delahunty


Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your farm?

I live on our family farm 5km west of Murtoa with my wife Eve. We have three boys, Harry (4), Fraser (2) and Gus (1).

We farm together with my brother Chris and his wife Brooke and their family. Our parents Leo and Bernadette are semi-retired and still play a very important role in our operation.

After finishing high school I went on to study Primary Teaching at Deakin University. This was always something that interested me as I enjoy working alongside others and helping people improve—particularly kids! While away in Melbourne, I was always drawn back towards home and interested in what was happening at the farm. I moved back on the farm at the start of 2013, which has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. I didn’t know it at the time, but I am very fortunate that there was ‘room’ for me to come home to the farm and the great opportunity that it presents.

Since I hadn’t undertaken any formal ag studies while away, I was relatively raw in my first few years back home. I tried to participate in as many industry days as possible to help build my knowledge, something I continue to do.

Our farm cropping program consists of wheat, barley, lentils, canola, faba beans and occasionally hay. We usually aim for a 50/50 split between cereals and legumes/canola. We have run some lambs on stubbles over the summer period and have a feedlot to finish them off when the opportunity presents.

What has been happening on the farm recently?

Spraying has been the priority over the last couple of weeks. We are almost up-to-date with our grass and broadleaf sprays, trying to dodge the frosts, wet weather and wind! We are just starting to roll into our fungicide program starting on some early sown Rockstar wheat.

Our nitrogen program is almost complete, with our wheat looking for a second hit within the next week. It is great to see so many healthy crops throughout the Wimmera/Mallee.

A trip up to Speed is on the agenda as is the Murtoa Golf Tournament for most members on the farm.

How do you manage your roles on the farm?

When it comes to manual labour/tractor work, Chris and I often chop and change roles throughout the year, particularly with other commitments around family and community involvements. We share the load to make sure everything is done on time. Outside of the busy periods, we try to have a weekly meeting together with our full time employee Bailey. We outline the workload coming up, rank each job in priority and who is responsible. This works well for our business and helps keep everyone focused.

What have been the challenges?

The rising costs of inputs, particularly what we have seen this year, definitely presents a challenge in the decision making process.

We have had a go at using variable rate technology for our second urea application on a couple of wheat paddocks. Last harvest we installed a CropScan protein machine on our JD 780 header. We have used these protein maps, alongside yield maps and soil testing, to help target the nitrogen more efficiently. We haven’t necessarily saved any more on urea with these applications as it is the same as a blanket rate, but hopefully we’re getting more bang for our buck.

What are your long-term plans for the farm?

Both my brother and I have young families and we hope to provide an opportunity for our kids to farm if they wish to do so. I want to keep our farm as profitable and sustainable as possible, always looking to improve the business and be in a position to take opportunities that come our way.

What is the best advice you’ve been given as a farmer or in life?

Surround yourself with good quality people.

Who do you rely on for advice?

At a professional level, we use Ben Brennan for our agronomy service. We really enjoy his approach and we all work well together. We run a farm board with four consultants. Each member brings a wealth of knowledge and really gets us thinking about strategy and future ambitions/goals.

It may not be advice necessarily, but the value of talking with other farmers down the street or at the footy is priceless.

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