MORE torrential rains in large parts of the eastern states have begun to put pressure on new hay and silage production, with paddocks too wet to access.
Communities in the main forage growing areas of southern New South Wales and Victoria are preparing for major flooding this weekend after a winter of relentless rain.
Technical Services Manager Lallemand Animal Nutrition Vic and Southern NSW David Lewis said some farmers in the area were months behind on their silage schedules.
“There weren’t too many problems growing fodder, but doing it was difficult. Some places are six to eight weeks behind schedule,” Lewis said.
“Other places are still hoping they’re close to the window because they’re much later maturing areas.”
Hay and silage stocks have increased over the past two years, with favorable growing conditions and pressure on producers to start planning for the next drought.
But it appears demand has increased, with reduced grazing area due to inaccessible floodplains in some areas and protein issues with native pastures in areas affected by prolonged wetness.
Lallemand Qld/Northern NSW Technical Services Manager Jordan Minniecon said wet weather issues have contributed to a general upward trend in forage demand.
“The number of cattle fed is increasing at a steady rate and as that percentage moves from shorter feed to longer feed, the forage requirements change,” Minniecon said.
“Went to northern New South Wales recently and these guys have been wet a lot longer than the Darling Downs and the grass seems to be getting sour. We hear from some of those guys from the parks for sale there that a lot of the cattle aren’t in as good shape as they traditionally would be at this time of year.
Call for hay producers
With demand for hay and silage still there, national hay distributor Feed Central has appealed to producers to consider hay this spring. General director Tim Ford said the company believes haymaking will be a profitable business this year.
“There is a large-scale disinterest in making hay due to wet weather and high grain prices, but demand for hay is strong and prices are rising, so producers should look to make hay as soon as it comes. there’s a time gap,” Mr Ford said.
Mr Ford said opportunities would arise as the weather cleared and could include cereals and vetch, but more likely pastures including clover and rye; dryland alfalfa and great opportunity for irrigated alfalfa during the summer.
“We have every reason to believe that hay will again be a profitable option this year and it is time to start planning pasture hay, as well as irrigated and rain-grown alfalfa,” he said. .
“We encourage anyone with excess vetch, grain, pasture, alfalfa to consider hay as going through 2023, we expect hay prices to rise supported by strong demand and reduced supply. . Now is a good time to start thinking about moving cattle off pasture and alfalfa paddocks, spraying weeds, and preparing the hay shed for the new season’s hay.
Opportunities for dryland fodder
With plenty of soil moisture in growing areas, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Minniecon both say there is a lot of potential for dryland crops this year.
“While the rain will delay some spring silage and summer planting, it will open up good opportunities for summer crops in the drylands,” Lewis said.
“We saw it a bit in New South Wales last year, where fodder was planted in areas that don’t normally grow crops. Irrigated summer crops will also be water-intensive and water prices will be low.
Mr Minniecon said some producers in the western Darling Downs and Maranoa were keen to profit from making silage to finish and basing livestock with dryland forage crops.
“A lot of growers are trying to find planting opportunities, based on what dryland forage crops have done recently,” he said.
“We have some areas where dryland crops are doing as well as any irrigated country and if you look at the long term forecast, that should be the case throughout the summer.”