Straw prices unseasonably high with uplift likely in autumn

Demand for straw, driven by increased use for housing livestock, has pushed up values in recent weeks.

Typically, at this time of year demand for straw is relatively low as livestock that has been housed over winter return to the fields. However, prolonged wet weather has left animals shut up for longer and, therefore, led to an increase in demand.

Ex-farm prices for big square-baled wheat straw ranged from £65/t in the South East to £110/t in regions of Scotland this week, according to the British Hay and Straw Merchants’ Association (BHSMA).

This compares with a range of £35-£54/t in the same week last year.

See also: Straw values up £20/t with strong sales at auction

The BHSMA reported there had been big demand because of continued wet weather and said people were also beginning to worry about the coming harvest.

Similarly, barley straw values for big square bales were up by almost £40/t on April 2023 levels, reaching an average of £88/t and top prices of £115/t.

Millie Cridland, agricultural auctions co-ordinator at Symonds and Sampson, said trade throughout Devon and Somerset was busy and the firm had sold a lot of fodder in its April sale.

“The prices are definitely considerably higher than last year and the demand for straw is so much higher.

“Despite big demand for straw, there’s not much on offer, as people are keeping hold of it.”

Symonds and Sampson sold conventional bales at its April auction for £3.30- £3.50 each for winter barley straw.

Barley square straw bales (8ft) sold for £38/bale, while big quadrants had been selling at previous auctions for £45-£50/bale.

Short-term prospects

James Wotton, associate at Greenslade Taylor Hunt, told Farmers Weekly that demand was still hanging on, but could drop like a stone when it dries up.

He said: “Generally, in mid-March the trade was a bit easier as straw was sort of selling for £35-£40/bale for six stringers. It was that sort of money on farm in the South West, but people were only buying small amounts of volume as everyone had hoped to turn livestock out.

“More recently, there has been renewed demand – again very small quantities of people wanting straw to get to the end of the season. Now demand is likely to drop as the weather forecast starts to change.”

Autumn supplies

With spring crops still struggling to get in the ground and winter crops battling due to wet conditions, the supply situation is likely to be tight in the autumn, which could add more support to prices later in the year.

Mr Wotton added: “People have cleared a lot of sheds of straw this winter, so supplies will be starting from close to zero for next year.

“I suspect there will be a fairly limited market this autumn and I would expect there to be a reasonable demand.”