Hay returns patchy
ANOTHER wet winter followed by very dry conditions has created a patchy, unremarkable hay and silage season for South Gippsland farmers.
Tony McGarvey, agricultural contractor from Inverloch, said the silage season ran at about 80 per cent of normal, although some places were lower.
“Hay was really light on; only about 50 per cent, maybe even as low as 30 to 40 per cent of our normal workload,” he said.
“It was disappointing from our point of view, as well as for the farmers. We found the grass ran up to seed a lot earlier due to lack of rain and the understorey growth suffered as well.
“The ground went from soup to cement over about three weeks and once it stopped raining, the hay pretty much stopped growing.
“By the time we got a couple of good dumps of rain it was too late.”
Mr McGarvey said hay was already more expensive this year than last year and prices would possibly increase as the year goes on.
“Another problem we had this season was extremely rough paddocks from pugging and damage caused by trucks and tractors,” he said.
“This damage from pugging and tyre marks also contributes to the lighter season. Farmers can lose 40 to 50 per cent of their hay due to the depressions in the paddocks.
“The damaged paddocks were also very rough on our equipment and there were a lot of paddocks affected this way.
“A lot of farmers will have to work out how to fix their damaged paddocks before next season.”
Meeniyan contractor Jack Thorson said some paddocks are a little light, but most of the paddocks he saw were not too bad.
“The quality of the grass is probably not as good as other years, but it has turned out to be an all right season,” he said.
“The silage season however was down a hell of a lot; there was not really much around.
“The grass (for hay) has run on a bit because of the wet, cold winter. Farmers had to wait for warmer weather for growth so it has gone on too long, which affects the quality.”
Mr Thorson also said paddocks have been a bit rougher this year, due to pugging from cattle, another consequence of the wet weather.
“People may have to do a bit of repair work over autumn, but they probably won’t be able to afford to fix the whole farm,” he said.
Due to the drop in yield, there is a chance hay prices will be slightly inflated this year, especially if producers didn’t manage to cut enough hay to meet their own needs.
“If people didn’t cut quite enough of their own, there will be a little bit more of a demand, meaning prices are likely to be up compared to last year,” Mr Thorson said.
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