HAY demand has fallen over the past month.
The key reasons are the improvement in pasture growth in southern dairying areas and the promise of new-season hay.
The cutting of new season hay has begun with around half of the western Wimmera vetch crop already down.
Paddocks of Blanchefleur vetch near Nhill were cut last week. The later-maturing popany vetch crops that have continued to grow are expected to be cut over the next week, weather depending.
Vetch growers around Boort report their crops lack the bulk they have seen in past years.
Other vetch crops around Lalbert are not considered viable for cutting due to their poor production.
Although slow to gain acceptance from buyers, vetch hay has now become a preferred hay for dairy and even horse markets.
The area dedicated to hay is well down this year.
Those producers who have stuck with their oaten hay enterprises are focused on achieving export quality grades. Some early-maturing varieties such as Brusher and other crops losing colour in the windy conditions, are expected to be cut this week.
Some paddocks of frosted wheat and barley around Swan Hill are also being considered for hay.
However grain growers are reluctant to cut their crops following last year's disastrous hay making conditions and the favourable prices for grain.
If frosted wheat and barley crops are extensive and baled into hay, they can make a substantial impact on the hay market.
The carryover of hay is expected to be higher this year.
Those hay producers who have access to storage report that mice numbers have eased.
Parcels of oaten hay cut before grain set last season have been relatively unscathed compared to those parcels of oaten hay cut late with small grains.
The favourable conditions have hay sellers speculating that demand will be limited this spring.
However many hay producers anticipate that demand should remain firm in the new year due to the lack of hay produced on broad acre and dairy farms.
Hay merchants also anticipate a strong demand for higher protein hays.
While the production of vetch hay remains uncertain with the drier finish to the growing season, lucerne could offer a reliable supply of quality hay into next year.