Where’s the forage?
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.”