Straw prices slashed by over half…

18 July 1997

Straw prices slashed by over half…

By Tim Relf

PRICES of standing straw, like crops in a thunderstorm, have tumbled.

Auctioneers report values down over 50% on last year in some cases, leaving sellers pleased if their barley straw makes £50/ha (£20/acre). Wheat straw, meanwhile, has been struggling to make half that.

"We always knew it was going to be difficult to sell – and so it has proved," says David Brettell of Market Drayton-based Barber and Son.

"Having the right farm in the right location is crucial. Trying to sell straw in an arable area without any dairy farms is hopeless.

"There isnt the demand from dairy farmers this year which in previous years, may have bought straw to treat and use as an emergency feed, rather than open silage clamps early."

Lower stock numbers

The lower stock numbers following the BSE crisis is partly the reason, says Mr Brettell.

Hereford-based surveyor David Thompson also points to reduced livestock numbers. Not as many farmers are yarding beef and the over-30-month-scheme has taken its toll, he says.

Some of the crops are, however, looking good and, where the storms have not flattened them, will be yielding over 2.5t/ha (1t/acre), suggests Mr Thompson.

Wright-Manleys Andrew Wallace says the best crops will be yielding between 2.5t and 5t/ha (1t to 2t/acre) – which, at some of the current prices, makes it a cheap feed. "But theres a localised demand, with pockets of interest."

Meanwhile at Newbury, Simon Pallett of Dreweatt Neate says straw is worth about half what it was last season.

Hes sold barley and wheat straw at about £30/ha (£13/acre) and £17/ha (£7/acre) respectively.

The big carry-over of stocks from last year has had an effect. Drive around the countryside, says Mr Pallett, and you still see it in outside stacks – although much of this will now be unusable.

"If you cant make more than £17/ha (£7/acre), selling straw becomes marginal and it probably makes sense to incorporate it," he adds. That way, the fertiliser value is put into the soil. And theres no risk of autumn cultivations being delayed by straw staying in the field late in a wet year.

But save enough straw for bedding, cautions Tim Udall of Meat Hygiene Services. Keeping stock clean will be more important this winter than ever. "Dirty cattle will not be admitted to abattoirs," he warns.

And with many likely to be offered for sale a day or two before hitting 30 months of age, having them rejected may then mean they are too old to be sold on the open market. Instead, they will have to go to the cull scheme, "at not much better than knacker value," says Mr Udall.

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