Oaten hay supplies could run out within six weeks, with the supply of fodder overall in NSW now in a precarious state, according to the Fodder Industry Association (FIA).
While lucerne hay is still slowly being leaked into the system, provision of other hay types is dwindling. It is believed there is no hay supply left in South Australia, and one fodder supplier in Victoria has reported he only has access to three more B-double loads of hay.
Despite rain in many areas of Victoria and South Australia and parts of NSW, the fodder situation is not expected to improve although demand has eased slightly as farmers in some areas such as the NSW South Coast have put in their own forage crops or made silage.
Quality is also now hitting "bottom of the barrel".
FIA executive director John McKew said the recent rain was very welcome in many hay-making areas, but it would do little in the short term to offset a "precarious " supply situation.
"There is a very, very low level of supply," Mr McKew said.
"Already it is very difficult to find any meaningful supplies from anyone in the country," he said.
"Demand may ease off with the rain but we are still in quite a precarious position leading into winter," he said. "Of course the rain is great news and very much welcomed."
Hibbet Machinery (Haytrade) in Kerang, Victoria said hay truck after hay truck was going past each day into NSW, and it was pretty likely that would end soon. "They must be sourcing it from somewhere but I don't know what the quality is," a spokesman said. "They'd have to be running out."
Chris O'Donnell, from Dubbo Pet and Stockfeed Supplies, said his access to oaten hay would end in six weeks.
Mr O'Donnell could not longer source feed from South Australia, with one sales rep telling him there was "nothing left".
A hay supplier in Victoria had said he only had three B-double loads of fodder hay left. Mr O'Donnell said lucerne hay suppliers had held on to their hay and were slowly leaking it into the system. But they as well were suffering, only able to do four cuts of hay over summer, instead of the usual seven.
At the moment hay prices selling at Dubbo were: oaten hay big squares $400; lucerne big squares from $500 to $600, small squares $20 plus. Mr O'Donnell was still getting lucerne and oaten hay from his contracted suppliers at Forbes, Canowindra and Eugowra and oaten hay and some some roundbale supplies of oaten hay from the Orange-Cudal area.
The ability to make high quality chaff was also threatened due to the lack of good supplies. With supply low, hay quality was now at 'the bottom of the barrel'.
The most recent hay report from FIA paints a very stressed supply line in all states.
For South Australia it says: "This seasons hay is limited in supply and there is limited carryover from last season and previous years. There was a lot of high moisture hay baled this year with innoculants in southern Australia. If the hay has a high moisture content but is not hot it should be safe. This hay should be sold on a dry matter basis. Securing long term, reliable supplies of quality hay may well be an issue for parts of the south."
For Central-West NSW, it reports: "Farmers are busy this week sowing crops. There is not a lot of canola or lentils being sown this season with farmers looking for dual purpose crops such as cereal. With water supply concerns many farmers will not be planting as much lucerne.
"Demand remains strong in the region. Most hay in the region is already committed. There is limited lucerne and straw left in the region, cereal hay and pasture hay are being sourced from outside central west NSW largely coming from Victoria.
"Cereal hay, pasture hay and straw prices have been sourced from outside the region." Forage sorghum could be sourced at about $400/t on farm and clover is being delivered to the region from $450/t.
Lucerne hay on the North Coast is quoted at "$600 to $700/t" with prices steady.
Some farmers told The Land they had sacrificed cashflow to put in forage and silage crops, especially on the Macquarie River.
The FIA warned: "There is a lot of hay being transported around the country of varying quality.
"We caution buyers and recommend feed-testing and viewing fodder before purchasing to be sure of quality of feed."