The worsening drought situation across eastern Australia is now being felt in local produce stores as they chase ever diminishing supplies of manufactured livestock feeds.
Orders, particularly for products to feed cattle, are becoming extremely hard to source as demand increases and finding the ingredients becomes harder and more costly.
This is the peak feed time for spring calving cows and lambing ewes and for farmers, who opted to keep a core of their breeding females on-farm, they need to have a reliable source of supplementary rations.
If they opt to early wean once again they need grain based feeding rations.
The new hay season is still weeks away and existing supplies, certainly in local districts, are all but sold-out.
Many farmers who had on-farm grain stored it has either been used to feed their livestock or is also fast running out.
For Hunter based Farmers Warehouse that operates three outlets in the region with each order from their suppliers they are finding it is being halved.
“We can order 20 pallets of cattle pellets and only receive less than half that figure,” said Farmers Warehouse, dairy business manager, Warren Baldacchino.
“Our regular suppliers have no stock and we have been forced to order product from as far as South Australia to meet demand,” he said.
“Its so hard at present sourcing the quantities we need – and with the season getting tighter and tighter we just have to look further afield to ensure we have some products in store.”
Merriwa’s Alexander Downs feedmill is flat strap supplying their existing clients and owner Robert Gill said sadly they have had to turn away new customers.
“Given the current demand for stockfeed we can’t accept any new clients,” he said.
“Prices are increasing as we have to source grain from further afield but the good news is quality remains the same.”
Mr Gill said his family were gearing up to early wean their latest drop of calves.
“That’s the best option for us given the season and the seasonal outlook and it was worked well in previous droughts. But you need to have good quality rations to keep the calves growing well.”
He was sympathetic towards producers trying to source good quality feed rations saying it was no easy task given the demand and shortage of local grain supplies.
Federal member for Hunter and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon said “Feed is already being transported from both Western Australia and South Australia. That is causing prices to rise across the market and the supply will eventually be exhausted.
“It’s a very serious problem and highlights the need to do more in pre-drought periods.
“That’s why it is so disappointing that for the past five years governments have failed to progress drought policy reform. Far too many farming families are now suffering as a result”.