THERE is a sharpening focus on widening feed gaps.
It's dry in some areas, and livestock producers are doing their best to maintain stock condition ahead of more rain and more substantial pasture growth.
Feed companies and nutritionists are advising clients of options and best-value feeds to achieve growth targets.
Fodder forms a central part of this analysis.
There is no region as short of feed as southwest Victoria, south of the Princes Highway.
As the rainfall figures for Hamilton indicate, the dry September, followed by four months of below average rainfall from November to March, has crippled pastures there.
Even areas around Simpson which normally score coastal showers to maintain healthy pasture growth have missed out on rain. Though the Heytesbury Settlement area is green, pasture production is low.
Pasture hay values have risen in the past two months.
Dairy and sheep producers are paying as much as $190 a tonne delivered in southwest Victoria for pasture hay with crude protein of at least 13 per cent.
However, demand for quality fodder is constant.
Winter premiums for milk supplies mean more cows will calve during April and May.
For lactating dairy cows, some of the highest quality fodder trading is lucerne.
Southern Victorian lucerne silage with 23 per cent protein and about 9.5 units of energy is selling at the equivalent of $190 per dry matter tonne delivered to farms.
Bare paddocks in the south are sparking demand for lower quality hay.
The poor hay-making weather in the spring of 2010 spoilt thousands of hectares of hay.
That rain hit hard the vetch and vetch cereal-mix hay crops of the Wimmera, leaching quality and leaving windrows bleached and discoloured.
This hay was not sellable last season, but it is important this season.
Sheep farmers are finding good value in 2010 weather-damaged vetch hay.
Pure stands of it have found buyers at the equivalent of $120 a tonne ex-farm, plus freight, margin and GST.
The vetch and cereal hay blends are achieving $100-$110/tonne.
Hay sellers have learned this season - that all qualities of hay have their place.