Livestock farmers could face a ‘very long winter’ as straw and hay prices doubled at the first major auctions of the season, compared with last year.
Farmers around the country have struggled against the weather this season, with a dry spring followed by a wet summer, leaving straw in ‘extremely short supply’.
Farmers in some areas have been keeping stock out longer than usual, but wintry weather across Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England have forced farmers to house early, raising fears for next season.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “It could be a very long winter. Supply and demand are completely out of balance at the moment.”
Straw supplies in Scotland were ‘incredibly scarce’, with the west coast in particular having been hit hard by the weather conditions.
And in Northern Ireland, localised flooding and prolonged wet weather has driven farmers both sides of the border to look at imports from Spain and Italy, at about £200/t.
And as the seasonal sales got underway, prices at auction were exceeding expectations.
At the first of Tayler and Fletcher’s seasonal sales in Gloucestershire, prices had doubled on 2016.
Adrian Cannon, rural partner, said: “They are the best prices for straw in many years and double that of last year,” he added.
Wheat straw reached a maximum of £150/t, with meadow hay reaching a maximum price of £130/t compared with £66/t and £85/t last year.
He noted the quality of the hay and straw locally as ‘superb’ which had also helped push the prices up, with straw and meadow hay having 100 per cent clearance.
He added unions would still encourage farmers to buy as much as necessary to keep stock clean and productive, although he was aware it would impact the bottom line, and to look into alternatives where possible.
Mr Cannon suggested farmers considering substitution could be why hay prices had also soared, which was the ‘biggest surprise’ at the auction.