Hay and Straw - Neglecting stock could be the last straw
The final Carter Jonas hay and straw sale of the early 2016 season saw patchy trade, but it would be foolish for farmers to neglect the condition of unsold stocks they hold, thinking they have little value.
Prices at the March sale were weaker than those seen at the January sale although poor demand for hay in January was not reflected at the latest sale, where good meadow hay sold to the equivalent of £50 a tonne.
Wheat straw saw prices weaken from £45 a tonne to £40 a tonne but some did better, selling at the equivalent of £56 a tonne. Barley straw, which can also be used as feed, achieved £45 a tonne, weaker than the £60 per tonne seen in January.
The danger is that farmers are already weary of finding they cannot sell their produce at good prices. Many have grain stores still full from the last harvest - not from waiting for prices to strengthen, more because they just need to find a buyer.
Past experience shows positions can change very quickly. It’s important that whatever stocks of grain, straw, or hay are still being held are kept in good condition because markets can develop almost overnight. Neglecting what might become a valuable commodity would be literally the last straw for many already struggling with low prices and the effects of late payments from the Government.
At the end of last summer’s harvest, the change from dry to wet conditions saw many farmers chopping their straw as it left the combine so not much was baled. If the same happens this year, or a drought leads to poor growing conditions, this season’s leftovers may well become next season’s must-haves.
Livestock farmers faced with a sudden spell of heavy rain might be forced to take stock into housing or delay putting animals out to pasture so will need straw for bedding. If there’s a drought, demand for hay could well pick up, especially when stored in barns on farms close to good road connections to Wales and the West Country.
John ReadMRICS FAAV
John joined the firm in 2002 and is involved in a wide range of professional areas. He has particular expertise in valuations of farms and estates for lending and taxation purposes, agricultural landl...