LOCAL hay demand remains steady at best and hay sellers are struggling to find any consistent sources of demand.
By: COLIN PEACE
Source: The Weekly Times
Growers new to hay are finding this season particularly frustrating after the healthy demand of recent years.
Hay demand from the dairy sector has slipped back from what it was during 2015 and 2016.
The spring hay production that preceded each of these years was dry and feed for cattle and sheep was in short supply.
The 2014 winter growing season was poor, with below average rainfall all way up the east coast of Australia.
This caused oaten hay prices to reach a winter peak of $250 delivered to Shepparton region dairy farmers in July.
During 2015, Victoria and south-eastern South Australia suffered decile one rainfall and many cereal crops were cut for hay.
This compounded the shortage of hay from the year before and oaten hay prices hit $270 a tonne delivered to Shepparton.
Today, oaten hay prices for the domestic market are languishing at $135 a tonne, which is beneficial to buyers and should be encouraging demand.
Despite this, few dairy farmers are buying.
Large dairies, milking more than 2000 cows, in Gippsland have been feeding silage and other supplements since the start of the year.
Dryland pasture paddocks are exhausted of feed and grazing of the sorghum and turnips summer crops is about to end in a week.
Often this would trigger buying and importing of hay from the Wimmera and Mallee but most dairy farmers are more self-reliant this season.
The silage and hay made last year has seen ample volumes of fodder conserved, only adding to the carry overstocks of silage from 2016.
According to dairy analysts confidence in the industry is low as is the cash flow of many dairy farmers.
The autumn calving cows are drying off, reducing the volume of milk produced and milk revenue received.
Also the milk price received by many dairy farmers is not as high as winter when peak milk prices are often paid to drive winter production.
Still, hay sellers persist and are making the most of the “dribble” of demand they are sourcing through contacts.
Throughout Victoria, there are sheds with oaten hay that failed to make the high grades growers had contracted to exporters.
This hay was produced last year and there are plentiful supplies of carry-over hay from the 2016 season. According to hay exporters, there is a correlation between the level of water-soluble carbohydrates in oaten hay and the cropping history of the paddock of production.
Bales of oaten hay that tested less than 20 per cent WSC have often been produced from paddocks that had grown vetch crops the previous year.
When sown into vetch stubbles, protein levels tend to be higher than normal.
This leads to greater hay yields and the dilution of plant sugars in the hay cut from the paddock.