Rain may dampen hopes

Corrina RidgwayCountryman

WA's hay producers and cutting contractors are hoping recent wet weather and forecast falls over the weekend won't dampen prospects for the hay season.

Export markets are strong and, although domestic demand in WA appears weaker, there are plenty of reasons to bale hay for fodder.

David and Suzie Styles, of DA & SM Styles Hay Contracting, Esperance, kicked off hay baling in the area at the start of the month and are about halfway through their contracting program.

So far they have only lost one day because of the weather, with only isolated damage to crops reported because the systems have been patchy. In one case, the most recent system dumped 65mm on one paddock, ruining the hay but the paddock next door was dry.

The Styles, who specialise in round baling hay and straw with cover edge net wrap, are expecting an average year for the business with some areas being dry and others flourishing.

"We are hoping to contract about 10,000 round bales this year but that could turn around with 25mm of rain," David said.

"About three-quarters of the hay we will cut has been put in for hay production and the rest is made up of poor crops and crops from weedier paddocks."

David said growers who had suffered cereal loss from dry spells to the north and north-east might be able to salvage something by baling poorer or weed-ridden crops that were unsuitable for grain harvest.

He said yield mapping technology made it viable to map and cut areas of poorer yielding crops from bigger paddocks.

David and Suzie said steady livestock prices and a gradual restocking of sheep across WA might encourage growers to dedicate part of their rotation to hay production.

"The trend is that producers are spending more time and effort on livestock due to price increases," David said.

He added that there had also been more interest in baling straw but the export market for straw remained uncertain, disrupted by the ban on the live cattle trade to Indonesia and the good season in northern pastoral areas.

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