The last 9 months has seen an explosion in hay demand, lack of supply and price variations unlike any in the last 20 years.
In January of 2018 there was hay all over the country and some excellent quality. As the drought gripped NSW and farmers began feeding their stockpiles of 2018 winter feed, demand grew and trucks started running to all points of the compass. Such was the clamour that by April scarcity began being talked about and the rush began to find and stockpile whatever could be found.
During this same period farmers began selling off what they had to reduce feed demand. Sadly some chose to keep larger herds to try and ride out the growing dry spell and missed a great time to sell. It’s always a gamble in dry times, will you or won’t you get the rains so you can keep your herd numbers up and ride out the drought or hold and commit to tens of thousands in feed.
As with any product, supply and demand affect prices. An abundance of hay means the price falls, a shortage and prices rise. When it comes to hay there are multiple types of hay, bales sizes and bale weights, fresh cut, shedded or exposed so you can’t just quote a price. All too often in the recent debate we’ve compared hay prices and quality like cardboard and caviar. When comparing prices we need to do like for like over the past 6 months we’ve seen hay prices rise 10 – 15% at a max.The difference has really been in the types of hay available and the prices at the time.
As a charity we strive for the best quality and best deal we can when spending donated funds. In fact only 4 times in 5 years have we had to replace poor quality hay,a policy we stand by, 2 loads were purchased and 2 loads donated and that is why we buy hay, not accept donated hay, it’s a quality and bio security issue.
Hay is also a massive logistics business. Where as a produce store might order a road train of hay it has just one destination and no real time of arrival stipulated. When it comes to a hay drop and 3 or more roadtrains and 15 ,- 30 farmers and tractors to coordinate, can they manage lareg squares or just round bales and you have more than one a week and hay from multiple departure points you can see it’s not just a, collect the donations, buy the hay, truck it and give it away in a day or a week. Occasionally rain will get in the way, tractors break down and trucks can be late. Throw in farmers who can’t make the day and you’ll see why those who have hay deliveries week in week out are sometimes short of hair on their heads, men and ladies.
Then we need to make sure we align need with want. Who do we give the hay too, are they a primary producer whose livelyhood is farming or a part time farmer, what type of hay is best for their stock, should we help them de stock
The Buy a Bale program has been immensely successful in connecting a farmers need and an item of support all Australians can align with. It would be great if all bales were identical shape and weight and quality, but hay that would make life boring.
So in the end, hay is not just hay, we can’t compare apples and oranges, pantecs trucks and road trains, there are just too many variables to say its easy to organise a hay run.