Phones ring off the hook for hay help

Gatton fodder suppliers under pressure from feed demand


The Big Dry
Running on empty: Mick and Therese Cottone, Valley Hay Supplies, are loading B doubles with hay as soon as it's delivered to their sheds in the face of unprecedented demand. Pictures: Sally Cripps.

Running on empty: Mick and Therese Cottone, Valley Hay Supplies, are loading B doubles with hay as soon as it's delivered to their sheds in the face of unprecedented demand. Pictures: Sally Cripps.

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The extended drought is putting pressure on the country’s stock feed suppliers, including those in the Lockyer Valley, who are struggling to keep up with demand.

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The extended drought is putting pressure on the country’s stock feed suppliers, including those in the Lockyer Valley, who are struggling to keep up with demand.

Speaking on behalf of herself and her husband, Mick Cottone, Therese Cottone at Valley Hay Supplies at Gatton said her phone didn’t stop ringing.

“It's crazy. Normally our busy period is September/October but it started in May this year, and it hasn't stopped,” she said.

The Cottone family has had 20 years of experience in the business and has experienced other years of peak demand but Therese said they were nothing like the demand of 2018.

She said normally places such as Tamworth had their own supplier, but now a lot of their hay was going down into those areas.

“We've got a waiting list – I think I have about five A4 pages at the moment, of people waiting.

“I'm not even sure we can fill that, at this point. As soon as we're getting something in, I'll start calling people.

Therese Cottone said every bale of hay in this shed had already been sold.

Therese Cottone said every bale of hay in this shed had already been sold.

“The stories – we wish we could help everybody. The best we can do is put them on our list and when we get in what they're chasing, give them a call.”

Sourcing enough hay to meet the urgent demand is the main issue they’re grappling with.

Despite making contingencies earlier in the year on the back of dry weather predictions, leasing another shed and storing more feed, that has been depleted.

Therese and Mick both said that crops weren’t growing as fast as they might in warmer, wetter weather and that frosts had harmed the quality in some areas.

More recently, it’s been spot fires in dry paddocks that have caused damage.

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As far as suggestions of price gouging went, Mick said while the price of hay seemed high to consumers, the cost of electricity for farmers irrigating crops had to be taken into consideration, as well as lower yields.

“I was talking to a farmer earlier – his power bill went from about $5000 to $8500,” he said.

“They're probably not watering any more than they would in a dry time but costs are just going through the roof for them, like all of us.

“Even at the current price per bale, there's not much left in the pocket once they take out all the costs they're paying for – power, poison, diesel – and they're simply not yielding like they should.”

Therese agreed that the people they dealt with weren’t trying to rip anyone off.

“They're just trying to cover their costs as well, you know, primary producers are always the ones getting the worst end of the stick.”

She said they aimed at a fair price for their hay, to support local businesses and keep good relationships with local farmers and customers.

She also said their business was in a similar position to the farmers they bought from.

“If we run out of supply, we have no work for our guys and we have no work for ourselves,” she said.

“It's definitely a motivating factor for us, to get the hay to people, absolutely.

“The three local guys (we employ) all have family and we have family.”

The story Phones ring off the hook for hay help first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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