Demand for hay has hit its lowest level for years as the livestock sector suffers from poor returns, disease outbreaks and EU red tape, according to one auctioneer.

Graham Baddeley, of Cotswold rural property and livestock business Humberts incorporating Tayler Fletcher, said there had been little or no demand for hay at an auction at Stow-on-the-Wold earlier this month.

Mr Baddeley said only 17 lots of hay, haylage and silage, out of the 83 put forward, found buyers, with many failing to achieve even an opening bid.

“While the adverse weather conditions at hay-making time in 2007 may have partly contributed to the lack of demand for reasons of quality, nevertheless there is an underlying ongoing problem of oversupply of hay and grazing land that has been building up for the past 3-4 years.”

There were many reasons for this, he added. These included the selling up of dairy herds and general reduction in livestock due to poor returns, foot-and-mouth outbreaks and movement controls.

The restriction on breaking up “permanent pasture” land as defined under the Single Payment scheme was also not helping, he said.

“The stock has gone but the grass still grows and has to be dealt with.”