NAY HAY: The price of lucerne has increased more than $200 a tonne and farmers have started trucking fodder up from the south.
NAY HAY: The price of lucerne has increased more than $200 a tonne and farmers have started trucking fodder up from the south. Jayden Brown

DESPERATE: Farmers face worst hay shortage in five decades

LIVESTOCK producers around the region are in trouble as an unforeseen shortage of hay starts to hit the country, with some Southern Downs farmers already suffering.

As demand for hay increases, producers are being forced to buy feed from as far away as South Australia.

Junabee dairy farmer Brent Hoffman bought a load of grain from down south because it had become difficult to source in Queensland.

"It hasn't rained, so you haven't cut hay or have enough storage for what you've got, you have to buy stuff in," Mr Hoffman said.

"Those costs can go from turning a profit to turning a loss. If you can't find it, you've got to borrow it, you either do that or pull the plug."

 

HARD TIMES: Brent Hoffman at his Junabee dairy farm where drought is creating increasing financial pressure.
HARD TIMES: Brent Hoffman at his Junabee dairy farm where drought is creating increasing financial pressure. Elyse Wurm

Texas-based lucerne producer Greg Finlay said the region was in a "desperate" situation as it faces the "worst" fodder drought since 1965.

Hay is becoming virtually impossible to source after successive hot summers limited production.

Mr Finlay said large-scale feedlots had pre-contracted large amounts of fodder ahead of production, meaning large amounts of hay were committed before it was even grown.

"Anything you see at the moment in storage sheds will be tied up in contracts," he said.

"Anyone with livestock will have to make some big decisions really soon or things will get very bad."

But as farmers increasingly look to de-stock, slaughter grids are filling up quickly.

 

LOCKED UP: The hay seen in sheds around the region is mostly locked up in feed lot contracts.
LOCKED UP: The hay seen in sheds around the region is mostly locked up in feed lot contracts. Jayden Brown

"I've got dairy farmers here that can't feed their cattle and also can't reduce their stock numbers," Mr Finlay said.

Lucerne prices have increased from $280-350 a tonne to a minimum of $560 and he said it would keep increasing.

Mr Finlay said hay supplies in South Australia and Victoria were decreasing quickly and grain shipments from the United Kingdom and Western Australia were preparing to fill the hole.

He said many were unprepared for the problems to come.

"People are so used to their hay being around, but this problem is not going to fix itself until spring next year."

Dalveen cattle farmer Gerard Wren has worked in the region for 12 years and said the dry conditions were the worst he'd seen in the area.

 

TO DUST: Successive hot summers and dry conditions mean fodder is in very short supply and farmers are being urged to make plans.
TO DUST: Successive hot summers and dry conditions mean fodder is in very short supply and farmers are being urged to make plans. Jayden Brown

"Our dams are about half full, hopefully they won't go down much more with the cooler weather and the cows aren't drinking as much," he said.

He has just bought a truckload of hay from South Australia to share with his daughter, Courtney, and another local farmer.

"You're just spending money, you do your best to keep your animals alive and in a healthy condition," he said.

"Some will probably say they've had enough because there's other pressures on us with the biosecurity and the council with laws on weeds."


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