Rain puts cloud over hay quality

Rain puts cloud over hay quality

Cropping
WARM UP: Wynarka farmer Simon Martin with cut vetch that was rained on last week. After some warmer days this week, they started baling it on Wednesday.

WARM UP: Wynarka farmer Simon Martin with cut vetch that was rained on last week. After some warmer days this week, they started baling it on Wednesday.

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While rain in the past few weeks will be beneficial to later-maturing crops, the impact it will have on recently cut hay is expected to be significant.

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WHILE rain in the past few weeks will be beneficial to later-maturing crops, the impact it will have on recently cut hay is expected to be significant.

The issue is only compounded by the fact that demand for hay is almost "non-existent", recently-appointed Australian Fodder Industry Association president Brad Griffiths says.

"Domestically, there is not much going on," he said.

"Broken Hill, NSW, and the NT have had good rain, and I don't see us sending hay to Qld and NSW for years.

"The exporters, if you have a contract with them, are working hard to find a home for the damaged hay, but their hands are also tied. It's certainly a buyer's market and very reminiscent of early 2017."

Mr Griffiths is among growers that cut hay a month ago and were still waiting to bale it. He makes export hay at Mallala, which has had 100 millimetres of rain since the start of spring.

"We started cutting in the first week of September and we are still trying to bale that same hay now," he said.

"It is such a contrast from last year when we had our best hay season ever, with high quality, good yields and great prices. While, without doubt, this year will be our worst - yields will be down and prices are horrendous.

"We expect there will be a lot of hay going into storage and some for a while, particularly the damaged stuff."

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With no liquidity in the market, Mr Griffiths could not estimate a domestic hay price, while export hay sat between $100 a tonne and $250/t.

One business that has been able to find a domestic market for its hay has been Bulla Burra, via Loxton, which cut oats three weeks ago, but only finished baling it on Tuesday.

"We had three rain events in that time - 35mm on the oaten hay and 25mm on the vetch, which we cut two weeks ago and are still yet to bale," general manager Robin Schaefer said. "Hopefully, with the warmer days this week, we can get it done before the next rain forecast for the weekend."

While a mostly cropping business, Mr Schaefer said they were lucky to have a domestic market to sell to.

"It will be interesting to see what impact the rain has had when our feed tests come back, but our contract baler said it still seemed reasonable quality-wise," he said.

"But we will take rain any day because it has been extremely beneficial to at least 90 per cent of our cropping program."

Bailing rush on to beat the wet weather

IT will be a nervous wait for Simon Martin, Wynarka, to see how much recent rain had affected his cut vetch and oats, which has been on the ground for up to three weeks.

They have had 40 millimetres of rain in that time, which has cast doubt over the quality of the hay they may bale.

"The oaten hay is meant for export through Lithgows at Tailem Bend," he said.

"They were out to assess it earlier this week and were confident they would still take most of it."

Simon grows about 500 hectares of hay in his 2250ha cropping operation with father Tony and cousin Sam Martin, which they run alongside 1600 breeding ewes.

Simon says they are lucky to be able to absorb any damaged hay within their sheep flock, which can get up to 4000 head at times.

"We also generally store the vetch hay for our livestock," he said.

"We may try and sell some early next year, but we expect there will be a lot of hay about, so we will have to see how the quality pans out."

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They started dry sowing their vetch and oats from late March so were able to capture all of the good early rains in April.

"Rain did get a bit tight from June to August, but since the start of spring we have had 65mm," Simon said.

"Our later wheat will benefit from this recent rain, but most of our other crops, particularly early barley, are about done so we don't need much more."

After warmer days earlier this week, the Martins began baling the vetch and oats on Wednesday, with pleasing results.

"It has been going in pretty well, not as bad as I thought it was originally going to be," Simon said.

"We had fluffed it earlier this week to get some air underneath and that has definitely improved it."

They aim to have half the hay baled before rain is expected again later this week.

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