21 November 1997

Less straw, but prices same?

WITH winter unfolding, supplies of straw seem less plentiful than last year.

But few people are predicting prices will be higher than then, with the BSE cull leaving fewer animals on farms.

Andrew McFarlane Holt of Alexanders reckons that there is also some carry-over of the 1996 bumper crop.

"Samples which have been stored in barns will probably be saleable, albeit discounted against this years crop. But straw which has been left exposed to the elements will be worthless and may end up being burnt," he says.

Crucial now will be the weather. "The colder and wetter it is, the more demand there will be."

Simon Pallett of Dreweatt Neate says, after last winters surplus, far less straw was baled this summer. And this is reflected in the 1800t entry of forage at the firms early December auction, compared with 2500t last year.

"But with cattle housed, the demand tap has been turned on and this will help support prices."

Early trading of small bales has seen barley straw making between £35 and £38/t, with hay at about £80/t, says Mr Pallett.

Tayler and Fletchers Graham Baddeley is expecting prices to match last years, but there will be a big range, with good samples making £45/t.

Similarly, hay will be a mixed trade, he suggests, with horse- buyers snapping up the best lots. And prices could also get a boost if Dutch buyers return to the market. &#42