THE NORTHERN Australian drought is seeing Australia rapidly ripping through remaining fodder reserves.
Just two years after the nation produced a massive glut of fodder in 2016, with some analysts predicting there would be hay sitting in paddocks never to be sold, there is suddenly a mad scramble for remaining hay stocks.
“Buyers are certainly looking to get hold of supplies and while there is still some hay about it is getting harder to find,” said Josh Green, Elite Fodder, Horsham.
“The market wants hay that tests well given the large distances it will be travelling but sometimes it is going to be a bit of a case of get what you can,” Mr Green said.
“Obviously the supplies of shedded hay have gone first but there is now some paddock stored hay being sold.”
“We’re also seeing sales of two year old hay made in 2016.”
The market has really begun to heat up over the past month to six weeks as graziers realise there will not be autumn feed due to the dry start to the season.
Graziers looking to retain core breeding stock, combined with feedlotters looking for product to blend with protein rich products such as palm oil are creating the basis for the strong demand.
It has seen hay move vast distances.
Remaining hay reserves are primarily concentrated in southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia and hay sellers have reported their product has travelled all the way to north-western Queensland.
“We’ve had hay go to the other side of Longreach,” said Grain Producers Australia and Rupanyup, Victoria, farmer Andrew Weidemann.
“It really has heated up over the past few weeks, previously people have been hunting for the good quality stuff but now it seems to be a case of hay being hay.”
David Jochinke, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president and a farmer north of Horsham, Victoria, said he had noticed the hay market heat up over the past fortnight.
“There are trucks moving everywhere, some are going south to places like Gippsland, where they’ve had rain but the feed has not yet started to grow and others are heading north – I had some head to Walgett in north-west NSW recently.
“The major issue is getting a truck to move the hay, they are booked up solid.”
This massive surge of demand is not necessarily translating into whopping prices for hay producers with the hefty freight bill cutting into the price northern customers can pay to the growers.
Nhill, Victoria, hay producer Chris Schnaars said in many cases the freight was more expensive than the hay delivered.
“You might see your cereal hay at about $140 a tonne ex-Wimmera and the freight would be the same, it means the northern guys are paying around $280/t but not all of that is going to the producers.”
Mr Green agreed on the pricing front, saying the hay market was different to the grains sector, where farmers are now seeing solid values for old crop grain.
“In many cases it is not that farmers are getting great returns for their hay, it is more they are getting a chance to break even on product they thought they might not be able to sell.”