Cane farmers Dylan Wedel and Sarah Coughlan on their farm at Victoria Plains.
Cane farmers Dylan Wedel and Sarah Coughlan on their farm at Victoria Plains.

Young farmers get ready for crushing season

MACKAY sugarcane grower Dylan Wedel and his partner Sarah Coughlan hope this will be the year their property turns things around.

The young couple has owned the cane farm at Victoria Plains for the past four years, buying at an inauspicious time when the sugar price had dropped with no opportunity at the time for growers to forward price.

Cyclone Debbie had also arrived to show them what their cane looked like under water; and underperforming mills meant extended seasons and unharvested 'standover' cane was worth very little.

Things are now improving and they think this year the farm might finally break even.

"We haven't seen good sugar prices until the start of this year and we want to see the farm's returns over a five to 10-year average," Mr Wedel said.

"If it doesn't meet our expectations we'll try something else."

Farming runs in Mr Wedel's family, with both sugarcane and cattle farming south of Mackay.

Ms Coughlan is new to farming, although she does come from the bush down near Nanango.

The couple looked at more than 30 farms in the district before deciding on one to buy.

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They financed through the Queensland Rural Industry Development Agency which provides funding for young farmers to buy farms.

Both of them are mining engineers who work for a mining company two hours up the road. Because of time constraints, they needed a farm that was already established under cane so that they could walk straight in and start producing.

Their farm has 50 hectares under cane and they plan to put in another 10ha.

The cane yields 11 tonnes of sugar per hectare, according to the mill's figures.

The property is 100 per cent irrigated and because it is adjacent to the Victoria Plains Dam, they don't have to pay for pumping.

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"We don't have to worry about the high price of electricity which is a real bonus," Mr Wedel said.

The farm has a cane siding just up the road to collect the harvested cane for transport to Farleigh Mill.

The mill will begin crushing on June 5.