Hay shortage could be worse than last year
THE old adage 'make hay while the sun shines' has certainly been apt in recent months.
The Lockyer Valley has been awash with the smell of fresh-cut lucerne as producers took advantage of the summer growing season.
But all good things must come to an end.
Temperatures may still be in the mid-30s, but producers and consumers are beginning to look towards the winter season - and it's an uneasy prospect.
Clarendon horse trainer Tess Neaves presently runs 27 horses and ponies on her property - including nine race horses.
With this number of mouths to feed Mrs Neaves usually goes through 30 bales a week, which she buys in batches of 100.
The hay market has seen reasonable supply over the summer, and while prices haven't been cheap, they have bearable compared to winter last year.
This could be set to change however.
"One of my farmers rang me (Thursday) to warn me the prices were going up,” Mrs Neaves said.
Winwill lucerne grower Lance Pollock said the present supply in the market would likely disappear quickly.
"There's not a shortage yet but I would think there's going to be,” Mr Pollock said.
Demand for fodder last winter was the highest Mr Pollock had ever experienced and this combined with increased costs of production to create record high prices.
"Anything we made last winter, lucerne or barley - it was sold as quickly as you could make it,” he said.
The winter was an expensive time for Mrs Neaves with so many mouths to feed.
"It was painful for a while,” she said.
"When it was getting up to sort $18 a bale - I couldn't afford the hundred bales, I was just getting by with 50 or so.
"The race horses stopped getting lunch and I just tried to minimise as much as I could.”
Mr Pollock warned with no rain on the horizon, prices could go even higher this winter.
"If the weather stays the same, I think it'll probably be worse because I don't think there's as much shedded hay stored,” he said.
"I would have had 5000 bales stored this time last year and I've got probably 1500 now.”
Prices rise begins - unlikely to stop any time soon
UNLESS condition change fast, the fodder industry is likely face it's challenging winter periods ever.
Australian Fodder Industry Association CEO John McKew said growing demand with little supply was a recipe for for a tough season.
"A lot of the summer crops have failed, and farmers are trying to make whatever feed they can at the moment,” Mr McKew said.
"We're now starting to see demand ramp up again in a number of regions across the country not just the darling downs.”
Mr McKew reported a lull in demand over the past six to eight weeks, but said prices hadn't reflected this reduced demand and had stayed high.
With the demand retuning, prices have already begun to rise - lucerne hay on the Darling Downs last week rose $65/tonne and cereal hay was up $20/tonne.
"At the end of 2018 we basically exhausted the pipeline of fodder stocks,” he said.
"We've got no carry over stock to speak of going into 2019 except what's coming out of the current harvest.”
Mr McKew said while prices were some of the highest on record, this didn't translate to increased profits as the conditions reduced crop production and increased costs associated with irrigating crops.
"Fodder growers have been under a lot of pressure from the weather as well - the drought impacts not only the livestock producers, of course it impacts our members who are trying to grow crops,” he said.