Hay shortage leads to imports from Pakistan

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Hay levels have become so depleted that some suppliers have been forced to source hay from as far afield as Pakistan, but owners say there is no crisis yet.

Poor growing weather in the UK meant last season’s yield was low and suppliers believe the problem may escalate due to weather patterns and farming trends.

In a typical year, hay supply company Colehay, based in Devon, produces 75% of its supply from its contracted 5,500acres. This season, the fields have produced 40% of their average yield.

“We’re importing hay from Norway, Sweden, France, Pakistan, Canada and America and I’m trying Morocco next,” said Colehay’s Pat Cole. “We’ve had to spread our wings.”

Mr Cole, who sells small bales for £10-£12, expects to import from the former Soviet Union countries next season.

Philip Judge, based in Stow-on-the-Wold, sells around 300,000 small bales a year — half of which he produces himself.

Last season a third less than normal was produced.

Demand is outstripping supply,” said Mr Judge, who charges £7.50 per small bale — double last year’s price.

“I’m paying massive prices and importing from places like the Outer Hebrides and Poland. It’s going to be an expensive year for owners.”

But while owners are being told by their farmers that stocks will be exhausted as early as next month, others accuse suppliers of scaremongering.

Some H&H readers report they can still manage to buy small bales direct from farmers,for between £3.50-£5.

An H&H forum user from Somerset said: “It’s £5 a bale but it was £3 18 years ago, it’s not a ridiculous increase, is it?”

And Hampshire livery yard manager Ann Hegarty believes the shortage can be managed with good organisation. “I’m not sure if hay really is running out, but it’s 70 per cent more expensive than last year and so we still have to put livery prices up by £20 a month,” she said.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 January, 2011)

Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk