Feed running low in northern Victoria

By Rodney Woods

With hay in high demand because of drought conditions in NSW, farmers in the Goulburn Valley will find it difficult to feed their own livestock as supply becomes more important than the price.

With prices much more favourable for selling compared to what they were just six months ago, businesses looking to sell would normally be licking their lips after a lean patch, except for the fact they have next to nothing to put on the market.

Feed Central managing director Tim Ford said those who had feed to sell, could just about demand anything.

‘‘The current stocks of hay are almost exhausted,’’ Mr Ford said.

‘‘People who have hay in a bale now can basically nominate a price but we are encouraging people to not get greedy because farmers are suffering from the drought.’’

Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive officer John McKew said the price of hay was the least of the problems for farmers looking to purchase fodder for their livestock.

‘‘If there is no more product or very limited supply, it doesn’t matter what the price is, to a point,’’ Mr McKew said.

‘‘The price is less important than supply (at present). They are not mutually exclusive and it’s increasingly important to find supply for cereals and oat and hay.

‘‘It’s a very different situation from six months ago.’’

According to Dairy Australia, the price of hay has increased by 123 per cent since the start of the year, something Mr Ford said was not as good as it sounded.

‘‘It’s an alarmist press release based on low historical figures,’’ he said.

‘‘We are coming off a very low base. It’s probably accurate (referring to a 123 per cent increase) but it only tells part of the picture.

‘‘It’s not up by 120 per cent on 2013, 2014 or 2015.’’

Proof of the high demand for hay is the fact that Jerilderie farmer Louis Kelly has sold his entire stock of 7000 large bales of hay since May, but he is worried about how he is going to supply feed during the next few months.

‘‘We want to be a part of the solution, but if we don’t get water soon we will become part of the problem,’’ Mr Kelly said.

National Irrigators Council chief executive officer Steve Whan said the longer the drought continued, hay would become even harder for farmers to get their hands on.

‘‘Unfortunately, as every dry day passes, hay and other feed becomes harder to source,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘Irrigators right across the Murray-Darling Basin are key suppliers of the fodder that helps to keep core breeding stock alive during these awful conditions.

‘‘Those irrigators use the water stored in our dams, along with groundwater, to provide that vital supply of hay for the dry times.

‘‘Often irrigators will have stockpiled fodder over a number of years, in readiness for this period, but those supplies are getting very low and if the conditions do not allow an allocation of water, we will see farmers unable to finish winter grain crops (which often go for feed) or unable to grow hay.’’

■For more about fodder, see the Hay Making feature with Country News.