Dairy farmers across New South Wales and Queensland are counting the cost of some of the worst floods on record and industry bodies want to make sure they’re not forgotten in relief efforts.
As sweeping flood waters destroyed large quantities of stored hay and crops, Australian Crop Forecasters (ACF) says two main factors have inhibited hay production this year.
Firstly, the large numbers of paddocks that were cut for hay, but abandoned because of persistent wet weather and then opened up to livestock. Secondly, the hay that was baled – albeit rain damaged – has now been damaged by excessive rain and floodwaters.
ACF managing director Ron Storey says the pressure to supply hay of any quality will be challenging in the coming autumn and winter months.
“Victorian hay stocks are being affected by floods,” Storey says.
“It is conservative to say that square bales stored outside – and typically stacked six high – around one third of these stocks will not be able to be used for livestock consumption.
“There are many cases of whole stacks falling over due to the sagging of bottom bales, causing the whole stack to be lying in water for many days.”
Storey says it is still too early to determine what demand will emanate from Queensland and northern NSW feedlots. Pasture growth, after the floods have receded, will play a crucial role about the amount of cattle on feed over the coming months.
Storey says many dairy farmers are opening up their silage pits and bales to find that the quality is not as expected and protein levels are historically lower.
“With this in mind it may be worthwhile feed testing pit and baled silage to avoid any unnecessary surprises.
“Planning and, if need be, buying now may well pay dividends compared to being exposed to higher prices for high protein hay later on in the autumn when the scramble is on.”
The Queensland floods and their affect on the hay market are still yet to play out, but ACF says much of the south east summer forage crop production will be depleted.
“This can be offset by importing lucerne from South Australia, which has been happening for some months now, and should set to continue with substantial yields from southern lucerne crops.
“Hay production from winter crops and pastures across the majority of the country are in the bale – albeit with extreme variance in quality and nutritional value.
“With high yielding crops along the eastern state there may be a false perception that there is plenty of hay around, but this is not actually the case.
“Hay of any reasonable nutritional value – without weather damage – is in limited supply and producers are happy to store it in shed and see how the autumn and winter hay markets pan out.”
Due to its long growing season, lucerne is becoming a shining light in the hay and dairy industry. While first cuts around the country were generally weather-damaged, subsequent second and third cuts are being produced without damage and good yields.
However, Storey says, with recent flooding many lucerne stands close to northern Victorian river systems will have their production drastically reduced.