Even before this year’s harvest is done, and with a lot of summer forage seed supplies already committed, farmers are looking ahead to autumn – and are getting orders in early.
Auswest Seeds product development manager, Frank McRae, Forbes, said most of the forage sorghum, sudan grass and millets were committed.
“For these areas here we really don’t have too many other options, other than cowpeas, which are about the only thing left in the system – a bit of cowpeas and lab lab,” he said.
Given the circumstances, he expected most dryland producers would now hold off for an early autumn sowing, especially if they got an early break.
“There’s been a lot of early inquiry for grazing oats – for all types of oats – they’re realising there could be shortages come autumn,” he said.
He said a lot of farmers who also usually retained their own seed had failed crops, which would push more buyers onto the market next year.
“Growers are looking to harvest what ever they can and then see what they’ve got. Some other growers have put locks on their silos (ie. not selling their seed) to maintain some seed for next year, realising they’re not going to harvest anything,” Mr McRae said.
“Once you move away from oats, you look at alternatives, so that’s when your annual and Italian ryegrass will come into play,” he said, explaining these options could compare well given the early demand for oats seed that was already emerging.
“You look at seed prices, oats are probably going to be expensive and the Italian ryegrass on a per hectare basis will stack up pretty good with those. This includes dry matter produced and cost per hectare.
“So oats will always give a bit quicker feed in the autumn and ryegrass will be a little bit slower to get going, but it gives a longer, better quality feed out the back end of the season.”
He said growers would need to be flexible and be ready to consider some different mixes. This could include taking some alternative clover varieties.
Other grasses that might have previously been a go-to for some, such as phalaris and cocksfoot, were also in short supply.
“There are a whole lot of things that we’re just trying to weigh up at the moment,” Mr McRae said.
Upper Murray Seeds area sales manager for northern NSW, Tony Christian, Tamworth, was also at the field days and said the biggest question he was being asked was “is (seed) going to be available in the coming season when we want to plant and when we do get the rain?”.
“The short answer is we think so, however, it comes down harvest,” he said.
Oats had been the first crop people were asking about.
“We’re looking to have a decent supply, however, we’ve already got some forward orders that are locking out some of the future supply that we would have had, so it is tightening up,” he said.
Upper Murray Seeds has production farms in Tasmania, which has meant it has been able to maintain seed supply of crops like oats.
Upper Murray Seeds is growing its seed production area in Tasmania by contracting to farms that neighbour existing growers, and Tasmania makes up 10pc to 15pc of the company’s seed crop.
Beyond oats, options included barley, ryecorn, wheat and rye grass.
He said while ryecorn preferred the climate from Dubbo south, it had been grown as far north as Tamworth, but the warmer the climate, the earlier it finishes.
However, ryecorn was typically quick out of the ground and could be grazed as early as six weeks.
Grasses like panic and Rhodes, meanwhile, were also in short supply and wouldn’t improve any time soon.
He said this was largely because those grasses were being baled or grazed heavily, so no additional seedstock was coming through the system.
Mr McRae, meanwhile, said lucerne had been a stand-out performer through the drought.
“I think there’ll be great opportunities for lucerne. If you look at the world market there’s a lot of lucerne seed available.
“I think we need to look at a lot more lucerne as our main perennial legume in the system.”