It's been a year!

WITH a new year on the horizon, it is timely to reflect on the past 12 months, even though it’s likely a year many growers would prefer to forget.

Jenna Santos
 The sun is setting on 2023, which was a tough year for many farmers. Photo: Mark Saunders.

The sun is setting on 2023, which was a tough year for many farmers. Photo: Mark Saunders.

The season was unkind to many producers around the country, in stark contrast to recent record years. Dry conditions impacted yields, feed availability and farmer confidence, as livestock prices plummeted, and some regions battled bush fires and floods.

However, it wasn't all bad news with significant progress made in agricultural research throughout the year, and ground-breaking products, services and seed varieties introduced to the market, which will help support farmers in managing future challenges. 


Early in the year Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) announced an estimated record of 67 million tonnes was harvested in the 2023/24 season, with the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) reporting WA growers alone delivered 26 million tonnes last harvest.

However, later in the year a Grain Producers Australian (GPA) survey found last season's winter crop also came at a record cost due to high input costs, while findings from a Grain Research and Development (GRDC) investment project released later in the year estimated WA growers left $320 million worth of grain in paddocks from front and other machine losses.

In June, ABARES estimated Australian winter crop production would fall by 34 per cent to 44.9 million tonnes this season, before boosting its prediction to slightly below the 10-year average at 46.1 million in December, following improvement in southern cropping regions over spring. 

In July, Wheat prices spiked with escalation of the Black Sea conflict, while barley prices lifted in September with the return of the market in China.

ABARES predicted in September farm incomes would drop by 41 per cent, before lowering this estimate in December to a 64 per cent drop, due to drier weather conditions and significant falls in livestock prices. However, Rabobank reported in October grain prices may soften the blow on lower yields, as local wheat and barley prices were higher than global prices, due to dry conditions, and global export demand was also expected to support canola prices.

In the first half of the year AgriProve, a New South Wales carbon project developer, launched an integrated soil measurement platform and CSIRO's tool for sustainable soil management also sparked the interest of our readers early on, with information on getting ready for carbon projects well received later in the year.

Pacific seeds announced two new Hyola varieties mid-year, as the hyper yielding crop awards celebrated 10-tonnes per hectare production.

Buff barley got the nod for malt accreditation this year, a triple trait canola was announced, a new higher yielding wheat variety was reported as showing promise in September and over a dozen wheat and barley varieties were added to Master Lists.

New tools were released to help growers protect wheat crops, a new barley gene was discovered to help crops cope with a changing climate, scientists had a breakthrough when it comes to breeding drought tolerant crops, and research kicked off to determine the best crop types for combating high strength soils.


In February, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) predicted the Australia sheep flock would grow to almost 79 million head and in March predicted lamb yardings would rise, due mostly to weather conditions and prices.

Rural Bank projected in May lamb prices would remain subdued over the following months, while in June MLA reported producer sentiment had declined in the sheepmeat sector due to concerns with weather and uncertainty surrounding live sheep export. By July it said Australia's sheep numbers hit the highest level in more than 15 years.

In August, MLA said it was record breaking second quarter for lamb production and in September the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) started reporting sheep and lambs sold from $1/head after prices tumbled.

By October the Federal Government accelerated its drought funding as dry conditions worsened and the WA Government released a new sheep report to aid farmers, while in December MLA declared it has been a challenging year for sheep and lamb producers.

In other sheep news throughout the year, a world-first oral treatment for lice in sheep was registered in Australia, over 200 brands joined a growing movement to phase out mulesing and the live sheep export industry battled to see the Federal Government's proposed ban overturned.


Early in the year MLA said the Australian beef cattle herd was on track to grow to 28.8 million head in 2023- the highest level in almost a decade, before predicting in June slaughter would reach 6.95 million head.

In March Rabobank reported the remove of COVID restrictions in China opened opportunities for Australian beef exporters to tap into changes in Chinese beef consumption, and the following month MLA said Australian beef exports were 25 per cent above the levels a year earlier. However later in the year Rabobank said mountains of red meat was flooding Australian processors and being forced into already highly congested supply chains, as producers turned off livestock for slaughter in response to drier season conditions.

Over the course of the year cattle prices dropped considerably with the Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator down by 58.72 per cent from 850 cents per kilogram carcase weight in January to its lowest point, before lifting to 537.77c/kg CWT by 16 December, representing a 36.73 per cent drop since the start of the year.

Other challenges throughout the year included a mid-year suspension of cattle exports from Australia to Indonesia and Malaysia, following the detection of lump skin disease in Australian cattle after they had spent time in Indonesia. However, after Australia was declared LSD free in September, both countries lifted the trade restrictions.

Meanwhile, producers impacted by the unlawful closure of the live cattle export trade over a decade ago are still waiting for compensation after knocking back a $215 million offer by the Federal Government in May and making a $510 million counteroffer earlier this month.


The Kondinin Group research team covered a range of topics this year including succession planning, harvest performance, high speed discs, pest control, mobile phones, autonomy hitting paddocks in Australia, exclusion fencing and grain fumigation.

The team checked out new machinery demonstrations at Kuhn Expo in July, the impressive showcase of high capacity gear at Mallee Machinery Field Days and Dowerin Field Days in August, and caught up on the latest releases at Henty in September. A trip to Germany for Agritechnica in November was among the highlights, where New Holland won the prestigious gold award and Case IH announced its 60 series harvesters.

Case IH also added Aussie spray technology to its 50 series Patriot sprayers this year, while AGCO corporation announced it would, along with Bosch BASF Smart Farming, integrate and commercialise Smart Spraying technology on Fendt Rogator sprayers.

John Deere unveiled its new 5ML and semi-autonomous sprayer, and turn automation in time for harvest, while Morris added metres to its Quantum seeding bar, Stara self-propelled sprayers became available through Croplands and Krone launched its new front-mount mower, before adding two new Big Pack baler models to it's hay-making range.

Kioti introduced its HX Series tractors to Australia in March and the new high horsepower Xerion 12 Series tractors launched mid-year, peaking at 487kW. Meanwhile, Case IH's new Steiger tractor was released later in the year, peaking at 580kW, and John Deere announced some key precision farming upgrades to its tractors.

Tractor sales kicked off the year at the 19,000 mark in January before diving in August and September.

Early in the year PFG Australia secured Versatile supply, CNH Industrial acquired machine vision company Augmenta and six Case IH Queensland dealerships changed hands. John Deere partnered with an Aussie precision ag business in April, while later in the year Mojow Autonomous Solutions partnered with Versatile for autonomy and Titan Machinery announced it would acquire O'Connors.

It was a strong year for vehicle sales with one million sold by November, breaking all time-sales records. Ford Ranger and Toyota Hi-Lux dominated sales in 2023, with Ford topping the charts in January, February, April, July, October and November, and Hi-lux recording the top sales of any vehicle for the remaining months (excluding December).

Toyota started the year strong with the launch of its high-performance GR HiLux, before adding a 48-volt system to its HiLux utes mid-year and later announcing its LandCruiser 70 series, while the new-gen Triton ute with a 150kW engine hit the market mid-year.


In other news a tracking device and app was launched this year by start-up AirAgri to help farmer safety, a simple app designed to optimise harvesting profitability caught the attention of Farming Ahead readers, and a feedlot auto drafter became a hit at Henty. IoT-augmented drones took to the skies to combat weeds this year, while a drone spreading business took off in north-east Victoria.

Telstra launched a war on scammers with the release of a reporting phone number in May, before announcing an agreement with Starlink in July. Meanwhile,  National Farmers' Federation (NFF) released a new certification scheme to protect farm data in the middle of the year, before announcing the first three products to be certified under the Australian Farm Data Code in October.

In March, CBH Group opened a new fertiliser facility in WA, while thirty-eight tonnes of illegal meat and animal products was seized in April. ‘Serious and systemic' issues were found with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in July and in August fertiliser suppliers agreed to amend contracts after an Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission investigation found potentially unfair terms in supply agreements.

In June, thousands joined calls to delay WA's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, which was scrapped in August after a long battle between landowners and the state government, with the new regulations released in September. WA producers were also limited to 10 guns under proposed new laws detailed in October, which weren't well received by all.

NFF launched a unprecedented campaign against government policies in October, after locking horns with the leaders throughout the year over issues including water buybacks in the Murray Darling Basin, the proposed ban of live sheep exports, worker shortages, environment laws, transmission lines and competition policy.

Farming groups were disappointed with budget short falls for rural road funding announced as part of the federal budget in May, with GPA still strongly opposed to the Government's planned Biosecurity Protection levy.

However, the Federal and state governments did make some positive decision for agriculture, with the North Australian Beef Research Council welcoming $24.4m in funding for pasture research in July, a $30 million boost for grains genebank announced by the Victorian Government and GRDC in August, and the Federal Government opening applications for $30,000 agtech rebates in October.


It's been a tough year, but looking forward livestock prices are starting to recover and Bureau of Meteorology is predicting El Nino will soon dissipate. Rural Bank said this should see average conditions return to eastern Australia, and reports trade conditions are improving, with a more favourable economic conditions also on the way.

In the meantime, we hope all our members enjoy a hard-earned break over the coming weeks. We are also taking a break until 3 January, but look forward to helping you make the most out of 2024 by bringing you the latest news, information and research in the new year.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the farming sector, brought to you by the Farming Ahead team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the farming sector, brought to you by the Farming Ahead team.


Research Report: High Horsepower Tractors

Kondinin Group has rounded up some real broadacre muscle in this Research Report - looking at 447kW (600hp)-plus tractors.


Research Report: Sheds

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Research Report: Harvest Weed Seed Mills

The Report includes a round up of commercially-available batching plants as well as farmer-made approaches.


Research Report: Agritechnica 2023

Kondinin Group’s Mark Saunders, Ben White and Josh Giumelli went to Agritechnica, Germany. This report covers the key award winners from the event and some of the latest autonomous platforms displayed.