Arable farmers urged to bale straw

Arable farmers are being urged not to chop remaining wheat straw as concerns grow over short supplies for livestock farmers this winter.

After wet weather held back combines earlier this month, many arable farmers have chosen to chop straw rather than risk soil compaction from heavy balers and lorries.

But traders report that straw supplies are short and unless the remaining crop is baled livestock farmers could face higher prices this winter. Coupled with this, supplies of straw in the south-east are being exported to the Continent, where farmers are facing similarly scant supplies.

In many parts of the country, ex-farm prices for big bale wheat straw have risen up to £7/t compared with last year, ranging from £23/t in the Midlands to £35/t in the south-west.

Big bale barley straw values have risen by a similar amount and have traded at £45-50/t in the West Country and South Wales.

But tight supplies have left merchants struggling to secure sufficient volumes. West Country trader Martyn Horn said he had only managed about 90 lorry-loads compared with the 280 he would normally handle.

“The overall problem is that available straw is down on the year, with only about 60-70% of the straw there should be.

“February and March next year will see the biggest demand for straw and unless more is baled now, supplies could be very short.”

Andrew Holman of the British Hay and Straw Merchants’ Association said few traders had been able to secure half the quantity they needed. “Despite the higher cereals prices some arable farmers don’t seem to appreciate the value of straw. It could be difficult to meet demand for straw in the coming winter and arable farmers should still consider having it baled.”

Hay prices had also risen as poor weather and flooding had hampered the forage harvest. Big bale hay is worth £90-£100/t compared with £60/t last year.

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