Putting a tally on loads
THE movement of hay from Victoria and South Australia has been unprecedented but limited supply is strangling demand.
Quantifying supply and demand is tricky in the hay sector, but one estimate puts the northerly movement of cereal hay from the two southern states for the past financial year at 800,000 tonnes.
To derive this estimate, calculations have been modelled on the supply of hay available, the potential demand from the sheep and cattle producers in Queensland and the number of trucks that have been operating on the roads during the year.
Some recently released statistics have confirmed that hay production in 2016 was probably a record and certainly the largest of the last 28 years.
At 8.08 million tonnes of hay, the 2016-17 production was five per cent bigger than 1995-96 and 2003-04.
Cereal hay growers in South Australia and Victoria started 2018 with full hay sheds and more stacked in paddocks.
Rain at curing time in 2016, combined with the record production, had reduced demand and many growers were storing twice the hay they would normally.
Some 1.2 million tonnes of cereal hay was produced in Victoria in 2016 and 223,000 tonnes of hay and straw was exported in the 2016-17 marketing year.
Accounting for a normal demand of 500,000 tonnes, a massive 530,000 tonnes is estimated as the tonnage carried over last October.
Accounting for a moderate 700,000 tonnes of Victorian cereal hay production in 2017-18, 500,000 tonnes of Victorian demand this season and some strategic carry-over stocks by exporters and livestock producers later this year, at least 400,000 tonnes of hay can be committed to the northerly demand.
SA produces a similar volume of cereal hay, exports more but has lower demand within the state.
A similar picture of low 2016 demand and large carry-over tonnages also support a 400,000 tonne movement of hay to the northern states from SA.
On the demand side, the culling of cattle and sheep in NSW has been substantial over the past 12 months.
If the 10 per cent of all breeding ewes and cows are fed a maintenance ration, the annual demand for full hand feeding would tally an estimated 900,000 tonnes of hay in NSW and 1.3 million tonnes for Queensland.
Clearly demands exceeds supply and some demand is being met via interstate pasture and vetch hay and other commodities.
Hay carriers have been frantic, moving equal volumes from SA and Victoria.
One big carrier operating nine road trains has moved 42,000 tonnes for the 12 months to June 30.
Without counting hay trucks as they cross the 11 bridges over the Murray River, carriers and major suppliers have estimated that on average 300 trailers of hay have headed north each week in the past year, culminating in a peak of 700 trailer loads in autumn.
This pace cannot be sustained but buyers will see new crop hay available in six weeks time.
STRONG DEMAND: Statistics confirm hay production in 2016 was a record and the largest of the last 28 years.