Scarcity of straw sees prices lift
By Tim Relf
FARMERS are finding it hard to lay their hands on straw, with limited supplies available.
As rain fell in April, so the prospect of an early turnout receded then disappeared. And straw prices at auction marts rose.
"Nobody has any left," says Christopher Boreham of Dreweatt Neate at Newbury. "Normally this wouldnt be a problem at this time of year but, with turnout delayed, people need it desperately. We have merchants ringing us daily asking us if we have any."
The big question now – with shortage easily converted into surplus – is how much will be baled this summer. "I have a nasty feeling that everyone will bale everything they can this summer and we will have straw coming out of our ears again," says Mr Boreham.
At Stow-on-the-Wold, Tayler and Fletchers Graham Baddeley says farmers continue to buy hand-to-mouth. Late trading has seen most demand for small amounts.
"I knew of one farmer who bought 10 big bales three weeks ago, then came back looking for more. But once the weather warms up and the grass starts growing, the straw trade will die."
At Chelford, Cheshire, auctioneer David Russell reckons poor prices two years ago discouraged farmers from baling last summer. Inclement post-harvest weather last year also had an impact, leaving straw now "as rare as hens teeth". And tighter requirements for cattle cleanliness have prompted the use of more straw in bedding this winter.
On Monday at Chelford, barley straw in small bales made to £82/t; the previous week it reached £98/t.
"If people cant buy straw, theyll just have to turnout – despite the high risk of poaching," says Mr Russell.
"As the saying goes: Each cow has got five mouths at this time of year – the one it eats with and the four it walks on."
Small bale straw – average auction prices Mon Apr 27
Skipton 71 55
Chelford 60 58
Carlisle 60 48