Livestock farmers are pre-ordering straw from grain growers in an effort to prevent a repeat of this winter’s shortages.

One tillage farmer in south Munster – who supplies straw, treated grain and fodder beet to dairy and beef farmers – told the Irish Farmers Journal that he had over 1,000 round bales of straw pre-booked for this year’s harvest.

While no money has been paid to secure the orders, the tillage farmer said a price of €50/bale had been agreed.

A severe shortage of straw this winter has pushed prices to near record levels.

A straw trader in the northwest said Irish supplies had been reduced to a “dribble” and stocks in England were “very tight”. He is paying €40 to €50/bale for 4x4s in the east and south, and charging €60 delivered to the northwest.

Another Leinster-based fodder trader is getting €100 for 8x4x3 bales. Top-quality hay for horses is making up to €60/bale.

However, in parts of the country hay is cheaper than straw at €35/bale and some farmers are using ordinary quality hay to replace straw.

Meanwhile, silage stocks are still readily available for the small number of farmers buying – but the quality is variable.

Ger Shortle of Teagasc said most farmers in the southeast have ample fodder until early April. Straw supplies are the most pressing problem, he maintains.

His Teagasc colleague Joe Patton agreed that most farmers were not looking at the “back wall of the silage pit” just yet but he said the late spring had seriously depleted fodder stocks nationally and replenishing these will be the challenge for the summer ahead.