Forecasts suggest that 65% of cereal crops have already been harvested and this figure could top the 80% mark by next week.

Good weather is enabling rapid progress and also witnessing no delay or challenges in getting straw bales.

As such, straw is coming on to the market in higher quantities at a much earlier stage of the year.

Straw supplies are being helped by the fact that there is no wastage. Demand is reported as variable, with reports indicating that there are also significant reserves left over on some farms.

These factors likely mean that there are ample supplies despite higher volumes being chopped and incorporated back into the soil.

Straw requirements

Lowland ewes will require 7kg straw bedding per week to absorb all urine, while hill ewes have a lower requirement of 4kg to 5kg.

As a rule of thumb, one 4x4 round bale weighing 140kg will be sufficient to bed 18 to 20 lowland ewes per week or 30 to 35 hill ewes.

This requirement is generally for ewes fed silage and the requirement may be reduced by 20% to 30% for ewes fed hay or high-dry matter haylage.

Applying straw with a straw blower will also reduce the level of usage.

It is important to also count in the requirement for lambing pens, with about four to five bales required for every 100 ewes in a system targeting a 24- to 36-hour turnaround period.

With good supplies, it is also prudent to build in a small surplus if financial flexibilities allow as an insurance policy if next season’s lambing conditions are not as kind.

Typical prices

Round 4x4 bales typically weigh 150kg on average, but can weigh 140kg to 180kg. On average, 8x4x3 bales weigh about 360kg (range between 350kg to 380kg), while 8x4x4 bales vary more and can weigh just below 500kg to 600kg, with an average weight of 550kg.

There is significant variation at present in prices reported. In the southeast, where supplies are at their strongest, 4x4 round bales are quoted at prices ranging from €13 to €17 out of the field in Wexford.

As you move further up the country, prices are in the region of €15 to €20.

While straw prices are not too dissimilar in the east and southeast, they are higher in the west due to the cost of transport.

Prices sought for 4x4 round bales range anywhere from €23 to €30 per bale. It is more economical to transport square bales, but the best appetite is still for 4x4 round bales.