Friday, 12 March, 1999

By Tim Relf

DEMAND for straw remains strong even though spring is on the horizon.

Small bales of barley and wheat straw made to £49/t and £40/t respectively at last weeks collective offering at Newbury, Berkshire.

  Round bales And, say auctioneers Dreweatt Neate, larger bales were as sought after as the small ones.

“This winter will be remembered as the year for selling straw rather than hay,” says the firms Simon Pallett.

His comments follow the “disappointing” hay trade, reflecting problems in the livestock sector and the lack of quality after poor hay-making conditions last season.

Farmers should consider baling surplus straw and storing it for winter disposal rather than selling it at harvest, advises Mr Pallett. “While this may place an additional burden on farm staff in the summer, winter sales can help the cash flow at an otherwise quiet time of year.”

Graham Baddeley of Tayler and Fletcher also saw straw approaching the £50/t mark at the firms collective auction at Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire last week. Samples kept under cover are in demand, but he reports that outside stacks are “not worth a light”.

With most of the big sales finished – and the late seasons trading in small loads – prices could go up further yet, adds Mr Baddeley. “Well probably see some astonishing prices in the silly fortnight before turnout.”

Hay was much less in demand, he says, with only about a quarter of the offering finding a new home. Some lucerne did, however, make to about £3.50/bale.

“People just werent looking for it. Merchants arent going to buy it at this time of year unless they can place it immediately and get a return.”

Will Abbott of Abbott Anstey Reader reports a “patchy and cautious” interest in hay but a buoyant demand for straw. “Its as good as we have ever had it,” he says.

The firms sale last week saw small-baled barley straw trading in the £35-£45/t range, with wheat from £35 to £40/t.

Its partly due, he reckons, to the need for extra bedding in the face of abattoirs tighter stock cleanliness standards. “At auctions, some people just wont bid on a bullock that isnt clean.”

Where the market goes now depends on the weather, says Mr Abbott. “Some cattle are already being turned out on lighter ground in this area. If the weather stays open, the straw trade will drop back. But if the weather comes wet for all of March, it could go up further.”