13 December 1996

Forage is on floor despite cold snap

WINTER weather has done little to boost forage prices, which remain well below last years levels.

"The straw trade is on the floor, particularly big bales," says Dreweatt Neates Simon Pallett. Wheat and oat straw are suffering worse than barley.

His comments follow the firms auction at Newbury, Berks, last week, where 2500t of forage throughout central and southern England were on offer.

The event saw conventional-baled wheat and barley straw average £23/t and £37/t respectively.

The traditional areas of use, with more plentiful supplies, are not importing so much this year, says Mr Pallett. What is being bought is on a hand-to-mouth basis.

And with no big rise in values likely, sellers now have to be realistic, he advises.

The smaller-than-usual entry of hay bucked the trend, however, attracting a "surprisingly" good demand. Small bales regularly made about £2.30 each, while big bales were between £67/t and £85/t.

According to Mike North of the British Hay and Straw Merchants Association, hay is making more in some areas of the eastern counties than in the south-west.

Localised shortages are evident in East Anglia with the summer drought, and the subsidy-led trend away from the crop, impacting upon supplies.

Contrary to the usual westward movement, some of the better samples are staying in the region. Such factors have helped put ex-farm prices at about £90/t in the area, says Mr North.

Overall, with no shortage of fodder, there is little likelihood of prices rising, he suggests. "But a lot depends on how long – and how severe – the winter is."