Hay supply hits rock bottom

Hay supply hits rock bottom as quality plumbs depths

ADF News
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The hay industry is concerned that there is not enough product for winter demand.

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LOW SUPPLY: Rains in a number of hay making areas has slowed demand slightly and increased confidence in the potential 2019 hay crop.

LOW SUPPLY: Rains in a number of hay making areas has slowed demand slightly and increased confidence in the potential 2019 hay crop.

The supply of uncommitted hay is almost non-existent at the moment as livestock producers seek feed for the coming winter.

The supply situation is so tight that there is concern around the industry that hay supplies might not meet demand requirements through winter.

Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive officer John McKew said reports of trucks carrying hay around the region were generally of hay already committed or sold in advance.

Mr McKew said the recent rain was very welcome in many hay-making areas, but it would do little in the short-term to offset a "precarious" supply situation.

"There is a very, very low level of supply," Mr McKew said.

"Already it is very difficult to find any meaningful supplies from anyone in the country.

"Demand may ease off with the rain but we are still in quite a precarious position leading into winter."

He said the low levels of hay were concerning and that was why the recent rains were so important.

"I am very worried about entering winter with the level of supply," he said.

"There is still warmth and growth and any relief from a pasture point of view as well as for the growing of the current crops is important.

"In terms of supply, the recent rain might also provide enough of a degree of optimism for suppliers to release some more hay onto the market if they have been holding on to it."

Mr McKew said hay sold in advance was now being delivered.

He said the hay stocks were heading to beef and dairy producers, and anyone with hungry livestock who was desperate for supply.

"There is a wide ambit of end users for forage, including the equine industry," he said.

"We know that dairy and feedlotters are always in need of forage supplies and they would be significant purchasers at the moment."

The FIA said quality was also a real concern.

Much of the remaining hay is straw, which buyers were using as a substitute.

"There is a lot of hay being transported around the country of varying quality," FIA said.

"We caution buyers and recommend feed testing and viewing fodder before purchasing to be sure of quality of feed."

Dairy Australia senior industry analyst John Droppert said the dairy industry accounted for about 60 per cent of hay traded nationally, and perhaps higher in Victoria.

Mr Droppert said quality was hugely variable.

He said he expected that dairy farmers had already covered enough of their fodder requirements heading into winter.

There had also been a significant fall of 7-9pc in cow numbers this season.

"We will be starting the new season off with a lot fewer cows than we did last year," he said.

He said that should mean a fall in demand by around 6pc.

Leongatha dairy farmer Clinton Ballagh said covering hay needs for the herd leading up to calving was critical.

Mr Ballagh and wife Amy Cosby bought the 88-hectare dairy farm in June 2018.

He said with a herd of 200 milkers, the land area severely limited how much fodder could be grown on the farm itself.

"We don't have the land or pasture to cut hay and silage," he said.

With cows calving in March/April and again in June/July/August, hay supply was critical, particularly in the final 21 days before calving.

"We need cereal hay to help prevent milk fever in those final days before calving," he said.

He said hay quality in the first 35 days after drying off was less critical and grass hay would do.

He calculated that the 148 cows that were due to start calving in June would need 30 tonnes of hay for the first 35 days after drying off and another 12 tonnes of hay in the final 21 days.

"About a month ago, through contacts, we managed to secure two loads of wheaten hay at a reasonable price," he said.

"That's 42 bales per load of 600 kilogram large squares.

"We also needed to feed to make sure our March-calvers put condition on so they would get back in calf."

Mr Ballagh said they would always be looking to buy good quality cereal hay.

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