Wet forecast is bad news for hay

Twice as nice: Growers are urged to consider crops such as wheat that can be used as hay or grain depending on conditions.

Forecasts of a wet winter and spring are tipped to impact on hay quality across Australia, prompting calls for growers to carefully consider their options this year.

Feed Central managing director Tim Ford said if the wet spring predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology eventuated, it would impact hay quality for the third year in a row.

However, growers making high-quality hay can expect good prices and improved margins.

There is already a shortage of high-quality hay, but carryover 2020 and 2021 low-quality hay will be available into 2023.

“Therefore, growers thinking about hay this year should consider lines that are dual purpose winter cereals such as wheat and barley that can be cut for hay or taken to grain if conditions are too wet,” Mr Ford said.

“Awnless or beardless varieties are especially encouraged to give growers flexibility between hay and grain as the season unfolds.”

Mr Ford said generally, hay production would be lower again this year because of great prices on offer for wheat, barley and canola.

“We are seeing prices for good quality hay trend up. Subsequently, we can expect hay gross margins to outstrip grain gross margins for those that get the quality right, but many growers are opting for grain and canola,” he said.

“There’s a shortage of good quality cereal hay available in our system to carry forward. This means that this hay season will likely be a bumpy ride of shortages and frustrating quality issues.”

Mr Ford said growers should not consider hay if they did not have a hay shed.

“At the end of the day, you pay for what you get and growers want to be rewarded for good quality,” he said.

“The best returns are normally achieved for hay with good colour, no mouse or weather damage, a good feed test, and heavy and high density large square bales stored in a shed.”