Many farmers in Australia are desperately searching for feed to keep precious livestock alive as the drought deepens.
Paddocks are bare in New South Wales, parts of Queensland and South Australia.
Livestock producers and dairy farmers all need supplies but the impact of the short supply and demand are forcing prices up.
Sally Downie in Forbes, New South Wales, is one who is paying a high price.
“Way too much, about $350/tonne for grain, ” she said.
She was also gazumped on one shipment when the supplier found another buyer at a higher price so now she is buying hay from interstate.
“It came out of Victoria and the freight bill was almost worth more than the feed.”
NSW grains trader Duncan Whittle said he was looking in South Australia now the supply in Victoria was getting low.
“The bulk handling system has very little grain left in it.
“What is left would be on farm, but there’s no way of knowing how exactly much is there,” he said.
Mr Whittle is using social media to find feed for sale, which he has never done before.
He has also heard of export hay being turned back into the domestic market now the price is so high but GrainCorp, the biggest grain trader on the east coast, declined to comment about that.
Duncan Whittle said he would normally be listing 70,000–80,000 tonnes of feed grain for sale on his website but that is down to 30,000 at the moment.
Alternative feed sources
Jeff Shirtcliff, the cotton seed trading manager for Namoi Cotton, said the drought had turned cotton seed into “white gold”.
He said there was about a million tonnes of cotton seed available but the demand was very strong and supplies were tight and transporting could be costly.
“Relative to grain levels it’s not too bad. But if you’re buying truckloads and truckloads of it, it’s going to become very expensive.”
Some producers are experimenting with orange peel as a feed source, as other options like grape mark have already disappeared.
Obstacles to hay movement
Kelvin Hamilton, a hay contractor from the state’s North Coast is calling on Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to raise the height limit on hay loads.
In June a driver carting his hay was pulled by over by the RMS and was warned for exceeding the height restriction of 4.6m by 40mm.
Because of this, drivers are having to load their bales flat, which Mr Hamilton said was less stable.
“When we do bales like that the straps loosen and the driver is forever having to tighten them,” he said.
Mr Hamilton wants the RMS to change the height restrictions to 4.9m, but said the authority was concerned about safety.
“They will give us a permit for 4.7, but … the truck driver has to notify local councils on the roads between point A and point B,” he said.
Drivers are also required to pay $73 per load for that permit.
How to look after livestock in dry times
Brett Littler, a livestock advisor for the New South Wales Government, said that it was crucial for cattle to be receiving adequate nutrition in dry times.
He suggested that farmers download the drought feeder calculator, an app which assisted in understanding the minimum amount of feed needed for livestock.
“The app brings up warnings to say ‘not enough protein’, ‘not enough energy’ or ‘you can’t feed this’.
“Once you put in the different classes of animals this will also fine tune it,” he said.
Mr Littler also warned farmers to get their hay and fodder tested so they could be sure that their feed was nutritionally adequate.
What Government assistance is available?
Pip Job, the NSW state drought coordinator, said she always welcomed farmers to come to her or the rural assistance team with their concerns.
“Contact me, share with me [and] let’s get through the drought all together,” she said.
Ms Job said she had faith in Aussie farmers to make it through these challenging times.
“Things are tough, stock aren’t looking fabulous, people are highly stressed, but there’s lots of people still making really great decisions,” she said.
The NSW Department of Primary Industry DroughtHub provides a one-stop online destination for information on services and support available to primary producers, their families and communities to prepare for and manage drought.
By: Sally Bryant, Kim Honan and Amina Daniels
Source: NSW Country Hour