It’s the last drop! Britain faces hay shortage as wet spring forces farmers to use it up

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It’s the last drop! Britain faces hay shortage as wet spring forces farmers to use up fodder while grass grows slowly

  • A bad spring means grass grows slowly, so farmers used more hay
  • Livestock feed was already scarce after last year’s dry summer
  • Meanwhile, the construction of the feed by Covid led to more pressure on the market

The proverb may say that we should make hay while the sun is shining, but this year’s good weather is so long in coming that it has led to a national shortage of fodder.

A bad spring means the grass was slow to grow, forcing farmers and stables to use more hay, driving demand up dramatically.

The crop was already scarce after last year’s dry summer, while the stockpiling of feed due to the pandemic has put more pressure on the market.

This ‘perfect storm’ of factors means that the price of a large bale – about 16th – has doubled from £35 to £70 in less than 12 months.

A bad spring means grass was slow to grow, forcing farmers and stables to use more hay, driving demand soaring (file photo)

A bad spring means grass was slow to grow, forcing farmers and stables to use more hay, driving demand soaring (file photo)

April Gingell, of the British Straw and Hay Merchants’ Association, warned: “Some areas are almost empty. It is an expensive year for farmers. Prices have risen enormously in some cases.’

Some merchants restrict sales to regular customers or place restrictions on the number of bales people can buy.

Lynn Cutress, chief executive of Redwings, the UK’s largest horse shelter, said: ‘After heavy rain and flooding at Christmas, followed by snow and a subsequent thaw, we had to use more of our hay supplies than usual.

‘We grow as much of our own hay as possible, but our yields for the year had already fallen by 30 percent.

“This, combined with lower yields nationally and rising prices, made for a perfect storm. We ended up buying the remaining hay from Scotland.’

She said the charity had spent an additional £100,000 on hay, which “put a significant strain on already overstretched budgets following the pandemic.”

There were also low yields of straw, leading farmers to use wood chips, sand and even shredded egg cartons as animal bedding.

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