Alternative Hay Crops for the Australian Hay Industry

Bryce Ridell - A report for Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

Many factors have to be negotiated when growing and producing new crop varieties, whether they are grass, legume or cereal species. This study discusses the world markets available for hay export, subsidies, demands and the various opportunities that exist in other markets.

What is the problem?

This report aims to inform hay producers and other farmers of the size and potential of the hay industry, where new and existing markets lie, and what alternative crops could be produced to access these markets.

What did the research involve?

No actual experiments were conducted in this paper. This report is a summary of previous data.

What were the key findings?

The Australian Dairy industry is the largest market for hay in southern Australia, with over 6,770 registered dairy farms milking in excess of 1,630,000 head of cows (Dairy Australia, 2013). Although the majority of Australian dairies are built on a pasture-based feed system, supplementary feeding of fodder (hay or silage) is common practice to fill seasonal feed gaps when pastures are dormant, out of season or over-stocked. Australia’s national cattle herd stands at 28.5 million head (MLA, 2013). The demand by the beef industry is cyclic and closely motivated by seasonal conditions. As the majority of cattle produced in Australia are pasture fed, the price is a large factor when purchasing hay, with producers often opting to quit cattle when feed prices outweigh gains that will be achieved. Cattle producers mainly opt for large square bales and round bales.

Final Comment

Although not all the crops that are exported worldwide are grown in Australia, careful consideration must be given to why they are not grown. In relation to new crop opportunities such as Teff grass, limited registered chemicals are available for use. This has a great limitation on its ability to be grown and managed as a weed and pest-free crop. Also in regards to export markets, there is resistance to import new hay varieties, as they may not be covered by the importing government’s subsidy scheme (Saudi Arabia). Therefore preference will be given to hay varieties that are cost subsidized. In relation to China, only varieties of hay listed on the approved for import list, are allowed from certain countries, currently, Australia only has the approval to export oaten hay to China, with the United States also being restricted to only GMO-free alfalfa. However, with current negotiations with free trade agreements, Australia may receive greater access to the Chinese market.

2012 - Australia - Bryce Ridell - A report for Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars
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