IN SPITE of ample hay stocks in reserve following last year’s bumper crop, a fodder industry specialist believes there will be strong demand for new-crop hay.
Tim Ford, managing director of Feed Central, said this year’s hay crop looked like having superior quality compared to last year’s harvest.
“It’s drier and while crops won’t be as heavy, we’re expecting quality to be up,” Mr Ford said.
"Energy and protein among other things are likely to be better, so there will be more demand for new crop product,” he said.
Mr Ford said many grain farmers through NSW were currently assessing whether to make hay on failed cereal crops.
“I’ve been hearing some people are not looking at hay as an option as they are concerned the returns will be in line with last year, but there will be a premium for new season crop.
“My message would be that if you have the biomass there and it is unlikely you’ll get a grain crop it is worth thinking about making fodder.”
“Obviously, some farmers have had no rain all the way through the season and the crops are not thick so it may be a different story there but in general fodder will be an option to generate an income.”
Mr Ford said last year’s combination of record hay production, combined with subdued demand from key buyers such as the dairy sector, was a one in ten year event.
“The demand from the dairy sector is better than last year and the good hay from last year is already gone.”
“Yes, there is still low-grade production from last season sitting in sheds but buyers will target new crop hay first.”
He said farmers through the Riverina were busy baling failed crops, in general cereals but also some canola.
“Canola hay can be trickier but when made well there is no doubt it is a good product.”
Mr Ford said Feed Central had issued a booklet on making cereal hay from failed wheat or barley crops.
“We point out things like the need for undercover storage to protect potential premiums for good quality hay,” he said.
He said the seasonal conditions would drive the improvement in quality.
Last year, although yields were exceptional, the fodder had low feed test qualities and thick stems, along with poor colour.
“This year being drier, the product will be much higher quality. It won’t have the bulk but it will have higher energy, protein and digestibility because it is a lower rainfall season,” he said.
In spite of the preference for new crop, Mr Ford said it was not all doom and gloom for those with hard-to-move old crop hay in sheds.
“Most of the old stock will eventually clear, it will either sell or farmers will keep it for their own livestock.”
“We’re selling about 2000 tonnes a week of old season stock at the moment and expect that to continue as long as the quality remains reasonable,” Mr Ford said.