NEW baler equipment sales are likely to fall for the fifth year in a row, figures from research firm Agriview show.
Dealers and manufacturers said farmers and contractors were putting off baler purchases for many reasons, including recent poor hay seasons, the availability of cheap water convincing farmers to irrigate pastures, and the reliability of new equipment.
Baler sales in Australia fell to 133 in the three months to September, a total of 247 for the year to date. Baler deliveries for the final quarter were unlikely to push the annual total past last year's tally of 517 balers, Agriview industry analyst Alan Kirsten said.
In 2007, the Australian farm sector bought 1143 new round and square balers and Mr Kirsten said the baler market had fallen every year since.
Clive Edwards, managing director of Lely Australia, the local subsidiary of the Dutch farm equipment maker, said his company's balers had held their place in the market.
"There could be a lot of people leaving their purchases of balers till next year," he said.
"And water is cheap at the moment. So a lot of farmers are planning to irrigate rather than cut hay."
Bendigo farm equipment dealer Steve Henman, of Midstate Machinery, said the second-hand market for balers had plummeted, which meant potential buyers of new equipment deferred purchases because of poor trade-in terms.
He said he had been careful not to hold too many second-hand units.
"A lot of dealers wished they could melt them right now," he said.
He said the Massey Ferguson model 2170 series big-square balers had raised the bar in terms of quality and farmers were determined to keep them running for as long as possible.
"The contractors will upgrade every three to five years, but Mr Average Farmer is probably going to look at his baler and have it over 10 years."
He predicted a resurgence next year in baler sales, especially for the export hay market, which suffered two rain-affected seasons before this year.