Farmers facing “perfect storm” over straw prices

Farmers are facing the perfect storm this year when it comes to straw prices, writes John Swire.

Following the wet harvest last year followed by an equally as wet spring delaying turnout, the price of bedding rose considerably in the 12 months to April 2018. However, now faced with an unprecedented drought and a consequent feed shortage the price of straw is expected to rise even more. There are already reports of winter barley straw reaching £198/acre and wheat straw £230/acre in the south west.

Despite all this, a spokesperson for the British Hay and Straw Merchants Association (BHSMA) told Pig World that it was too soon to start talking about shortages.

“The wheat harvest has only just started and there is still all the spring barley to combine yet, so we have to be a little careful about talking up shortages,” she said.

“However, the one thing farmers are telling us is that the urge to follow the combine with the baler when the weather is hot means that the straw tends to turn to chaff when it is baled. Alternatively other farmers are noticing that because the grain is ripening so fast, it is getting ahead of the straw, which can still be wet in the swath, and so a little patience is needed with the baling.

“We have also heard reports of some of many farmers baling their straw instead of chopping it for the first time for many years which could well make up for any potential shortages. Despite the weather, the harvest still has a long way to go and we cannot really predict how prices will go until the combines are back in the shed. The current talk of shortages and price rises will becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if we continue to talk it up.”

For the latest BHSMA straw prices, for the week ending August 5, click HERE.

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