Hay is in such demand and supplies are running so low it has become the new ‘gold’, graziers and suppliers say.
Lack of rain at the right times of the season and an early cold snap meant no ground cover for grazing stock, leaving the majority of farmers relying on grain and hay to get stock through winter.
A Ballarat Stock and Station Association spokesperson said the phone at one feed store was “in meltdown”, with those clamouring for hay and feed supplies.
Freemantle Stock Foods owner Graeme Freemantle, whose business has supplied produce stores throughout the state for 63 years, said the shortage of stock food and especially hay was affecting NSW, Queensland, Victoria and parts of SA.
“They’re struggling to feed stock … we haven’t had much rain and then when the rain did come, it got cold and nothing’s grown,” Mr Freemantle said.
He said they’d sold 1500 tonnes of hay, with the big square bales selling at $300/tonne for open hay that was mostly being trucked north.
Mr Freemantle said there had been a glut of hay during 2015-2016 but demand had increased into 2018, with huge amounts being trucked to drought areas.
“On any given day,” he said, “I’ve heard there’s an average of 35 B-Doubles (trucks) going over the bridge at Echuca every hour, heading north to Dubbo, Orange and Canowindra.”
Local hay supplier Neil Sheehan said round bales were selling for about $40 and the smaller bales, $7.
He said he’d “sold out” about two months ago and “buyers had come from everywhere.”
Fourth-generation farmer Andrew Fraser grows crops and produces hay at his Miner’s Rest property.
I’ve heard there’s an average of 35 B-doubles going over the bridge at Echuca every hour ... heading north.Stock feed and produce supplier, Graeme Freemantle
He said there had been a huge demand for hay and he had sold and trucked more than 3000 round bales all over, including Gippsland, Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo and some as far as Queensland.
Mr Fraser said a lot of the hay contained “frosted grain” from last season (when the germinating grain flower is burnt and dies), in the frost before Melbourne Cup.
While it meant the crop was ruined for grain harvesting, it was still nutritious enough to be salvaged for stock feed, he said.
Like a lot of farmers, Andrew had hay left from previous seasons.
“I had 1500 rolls left and I wondered how the hell I was going to sell it.”
He needn’t have worried … it has all gone.