Hay supplies across the state are dwindling rapidly as the big dry grinds on, but there is a silver lining to the dire situation.
Hay producers have had the opportunity to finally clear their stocks, making way for fresh stores once the rains finally come.
But in the meantime, supplies are becoming very short and farmers are urged to make a move to source hay before it disappears.
Tim Ford, managing director for Feed Central, said demand for hay has been strong since the beginning of the year, but it was only in the past six weeks that demand had gone through the roof.
He said there had been huge demand for any type of hay, but particularly oaten.
“We have doubled what we would usually sell at this time of year,” he said.
Earlier in the year areas like the Hunter and New England were needing hay, but as the months have passed, Mr Ford said areas in the Tablelands, Canberra and through to the Snowy Mountains had been needing hay.
He said there had been a very strong demand for lucerne, much of which had been carried over from the 2016-2017 season. But lucerne supplies are now exhausted, apart from a few select lines. “We wouldn’t usually see lucerne exhausted until July,” he said.
Mr Ford said the massive demand for hay meant a hectic time for hay sellers.
“All staff and truck drivers have been stretched to the limit. We would have preferred it was spread nice and evenly over 12 months,” he said.
Mr Ford said there were still some supplies of cereal hay, and he urged farmers to be organised and source hay, wherever they might source it from.
“If people need to feed through the winter, they need to get organised now. Because if they call in July or August, there won’t be any left, to be honest,” he said. “Even if there is rain now, it will only grow sheep feed and it is getting cold, so livestock will need more energy. It’s time to put plans in place.
“I really hope people get organised, and that it starts to rain.”
Despite the dire situation, Mr Ford said it was a good opportunity for hay makers.
“A lot of hay was carried over from 2016. It has been a great opportunity to get hay from that wet year sold,” he said.
Mr Ford said the hay grown in 2016 wasn’t renowned for its high quality, simply due to the fact the high rainfall meant it grew very fast.
But things have changed for hay growers.
“It really is an amazing process – seeing that product sit there, and then it is gone in six weeks. Many growers didn’t make hay last year because they had it carried over,” Mr Ford said. “It is amazing how the industry gears up for it.”