1 February 2013, A house, or more likely a barn, of straw may prove a good investment by the end of this year.
That's the view of auctioneer John Read following this winter's second Carter Jonas hay and straw sale, when 2,800 tonnes of meadow and ley hay, wheat, barley and oat straw was offered at Newbury Rugby Club on January 24.
"The trade for straw is still very good but by the end of the year it may be stronger still," comments Mr Read. "The bad weather during the autumn means that current crops do not look well. Much of the fortunes in next winter's sales will depend on spring planting - but the ground will need to dry up to allow this.
"Some arable farmers may not plant a spring crop so this will mean less straw available at the end of the season. Those who are able might find buying straw now, if they can store it, a good idea as the prices next winter could be high."
Conversely, while straw owners were making hay at the sale, hay itself was not in great demand.
"Despite the week of snow before the sale, with so much hay still available buyers remain able to pick and choose," advises Mr Read. "Hay vendors need to be realistic if they are keen to sell to aid cash flow."
Barn stored wheat straw ranged from £55 to £80 per tonne at the auction, stronger than at Carter Jonas's December sale, with top price again to Oliver Green of Idstone with D4000 bales achieving £16 per bale. Barley straw was in demand with keen bidding on all lots and prices ranging from £70 to £90 per tonne, well ahead of the December sale and this time last year when Continental buyers were forcing up prices. Top price went to regular vendor Steve Miller, of Upton, Andover, with BB940 bales making £23 per bale.
A small quantity of hay was sold with some buyers able to secure good value hay for £50 per tonne. It is apparent that with plentiful supplies of late cut hay there are some farmers who are able to use hay for bedding cattle.