WHILE activity in the export sector is high this season, the much larger domestic market remains quiet.
The dairy sector is critical to hay demand in southeastern Australia and while some are prepared to source quality hay for their autumn and winter needs now, most are holding off.
Some early signs of life are starting to appear in the hay markets of Gippsland and the Riverina. Buyers around Trafalgar, Berrigan and Finley are looking for legume hays for feeding to their milkers.
Hay merchants report that most dairy farmers are reluctant to spend, hoping they can make do with their home-grown supplies of fodder.
Hay merchants believe their dairy clients have put a priority on saving money to boost the equity they have in their businesses.
The adversity of recent seasons has made some dairy farmers more financially conservative.
The summer rain that has been widespread in NSW has provided some valuable falls for lucerne irrigators between Wagga and Tocumwal. Producers are generally on their fourth cut and all hoping for at least $200 a tonne for their large square bales.
Hay buyers are finding this quality end of the market is still tough to secure. Cereal hay is particularly difficult to buy.
Sales of cereal and pasture hay continue to be hampered by buyers' reluctance to pay higher prices than last year's subdued rates.
Accordingly, any oaten or wheaten hay without weather damage is finding a willing export market.
Exporters have picked over many stacks of hay as they are keen to replace the hay lost to poor weather in WA last spring and compensate for the low area sown to oaten hay last year.
Exporters are putting more emphasis into accumulating straw for north Asian markets to boost throughput of their processing plants.
Summer storms have caused some staining of stubbles, straw windrows and baled straw.
Straw sellers are hoping to secure alternative markets with the mushroom composters for this stained straw but demand is limited.
Chemical treatments are also showing up as a barrier for grain growers.
Wheat and barley crops sprayed with the herbicide clorpyralid are not considered suitable for many hay importers.
Composted waste from cattle-fed fodder treated with the chemical has shown a continuing effect on vegetables in market gardens.