HAY stocks are low nationally on the back of reduced supply and increased demand, with the situation only to get worse without substantial rain soon, one industry expert tips.
Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive officer John McKew said the latest hay report showed the fodder supply was "very tight" throughout the country.
"Most of the hay has probably been spoken for, which leaves some (graziers) with a bit of uncertainty and nervousness," he said.
Mr McKew said the dry conditions last year had "emptied the pipeline" of supply, which meant there was little rollover to the start of this year.
"It's unusual to have virtually no carryover stock," he said.
"Supplies have been limited to the 2018-19 harvest, which wasn't a great year for fodder production."
Mr McKew said some SA farmers had been able to make hay out of frosted cereal crops but this had not been enough to balance reduced production of conventional hay crops.
He said prices had jumped from $150 a tonne to $200/t for good quality cereal hay at the start of 2018, to as much as $360-$380/t in the South East throughout last year and had not eased since.
Lucerne hay was as much as $500/t, pasture hay $350/t, while even straw was selling for $140-$170/t.
Supplies have been limited to the 2018-19 harvest, which wasn't a great year for fodder production.
Mr McKew said the export markets, which made up 10 per cent to 15pc of national production, were also dealing with a supply shortage, and heavy competition from a "bullish" domestic market had meant they also needed to lift prices.
"The next substantial harvest will not be until the end of the year, from October on," he said.
"We're still in the sowing stage for the next season, but it's a very big commitment in time and money when we haven't got an autumn break."
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Last year, some WA hay had made its way across the country.
But Mr McKew said that could not be counted on to happen again, with growers there also looking for rain and having limited carryover stocks.
Mr McKew said it was "highly unlikely" that Australia would ever import hay and fodder products because of phytosanitary concerns.
"What we've got is what we've got at the moment, so the best solution we can hope for is rain before the ground gets too cold," he said.
We placed an ad (for hay) about a fortnight ago and it just went 'woosh'.
Halbury hay grower Grant Anderson said he had been getting phone calls from people seeking feed, but had already committed most of his stocks, mainly to export markets.
Balaklava grower Richard Sanders, who mainly caters to the horse market, said there was little spare feed available.
"It's a combination of the season we had - production-wise it wasn't a heavy year - and the demand has been extreme," he said.
"Hay doesn't hang around long at the moment."
John Farley, Broadlands, Peake, estimated he received about five calls every day from people looking for hay.
"We placed an ad about a fortnight ago and it just went 'woosh'," he said.
Usually he grows about 1600 hectares of hay, but did not cut any in the most recent season, after the oat crop failed.
Instead, he bought a 240ha standing crop of frosted wheat from a district farmer, which he baled to restock his own stores and keep for his regular customers.
What little he had left has been sold to smaller operators.
He said this was the first year he did not sell any hay to the export market.