Where’s the for­age?

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Ger­ald and Stephanie Tow­ers own an arable farm and liv­ery yard in north-east Eng­land. “We ex­pe­ri­enced a long, wet win­ter, so all sur­plus stocks of straw have been de­pleted in spring when it was still too wet to turn out,” ex­plains Ger­ald. “Com­bine this with a sum­mer where noth­ing’s grown, and a per­fect storm for a short­age has been cre­ated. “Prices in the south of Eng­land have dou­bled al­ready and the same could hap­pen else­where. Fod­der was de­pleted over win­ter for the same rea­sons and cer­tainly here in the north east the first cut of grass for hay and hay­lage pro­duced less than 70% of the mean av­er­age com­pared with other years. “The drought has had a dras­tic im­pact on the sec­ond cut. Many farm­ers have had less than half the usual yield. In the past, hay has been im­ported from the EU, but the whole con­ti­nent has ex­pe­ri­enced a heat­wave.”

Prices will rise

“Buy­ing in hay and straw might be more ex­pen­sive as a re­sult, so yard own­ers and man­agers, if not farm-based, might have some de­ci­sions to make re­gard­ing how they man­age the sit­u­a­tion,” con­tin­ues Stephanie. Ger­ald adds that they have con­sid­ered in­tro­duc­ing an in­cen­tive for their liv­er­ies to avoid wast­ing sup­plies. “This in­volves keep­ing their rate the same if they use straw sen­si­bly. It’s not some­thing we want to do, but it re­ally is in the cus­tomer’s in­ter­est,” he ex­plains. “Lo­cat­ing com­modi­ties for a group of wor­ried cus­tomers can be stress­ful for yard own­ers and com­pro­mises may have to be made,” adds Steph. “For ex­am­ple, moving to shav­ings. How­ever, even this could pe­nalise own­ers as it’s likely that an in­crease in the need for shav­ings will also raise prices.”

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