POOR HARVEST conditions in many parts of the country have caused a shortage of decent quality straw for winter livestock bedding, helping to drive a premium trade for the best lots, say auctioneers.

Blackened straw, left in the swath as August rain kept balers off the fields, makes up the lion”s share of this year”s crop, and recent auctions of hay and straw have seen buyers competing to secure even half decent supplies.

 Auctioneer Graham Baddeley, of Humberts incorporating Tayler and Fletcher, said the recent sale of straw and fodder at Stow-on-the-Wold, Glos, offered over 5000t on farms throughout the midlands.

“The level of trade came as something of a surprise. Up to a month before, there wasn”t much happening, but enquiries suddenly started to pick up and trade was much better than expected.”

Wheat straw averaged 52/t, based on 50 small conventional bales to the tonne, and achieved a 90% clearance.

“Much of the wheat straw was blackened and I thought we”d have a job to sell it, but almost all the straw was sold,” said Mr Baddeley.

Much of the trade saw values at about 1 per small conventional bale, he added. “Last year we were struggling to get that for much better straw.”

Some straw was lying in fields even until early September, he said. “If it wasn”t raining, it was damp and overcast and the straw wasn”t drying.” This had led to a lot of the crop either being chopped by the combine or simply abandoned, he added.

“But barley straw – especially spring or early winter crop straw – is undoubtedly of better quality, and worth 4-5/t more. Bidding was very good with between 30 and 40 buyers for a limited quantity.” Barley straw averaged 56/t.

“Farmers aren”t worried about the poorer quality straw as long as it”s dry,” he said. “But there was a big variance in prices for hay.

“Early June-cut hay has shown some very nice samples with good colour, but some of the later, July-cut hay is rougher, with a lot of dead grass in it.”

Top-quality, clean seed hay with “a good nose” was commanding the best prices, selling mainly to equestrian buyers, he said. Small conventional bales of seed hay topped at 142/t and averaged 107/t.

Rugby Livestock”s recent Midshires produce auction saw a “huge” demand for barley and wheat straw with a 100% clearance, said auctioneer Stuart Long.

“Barley straw peaked at 14.80 for Claas Quadrant bales and very bright, 2003 wheat straw in New Holland D10/10 bales reached 10.50. Conventional bales of wheat straw were in short supply and sold for 1.10 a bale.”