Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive John McKew said panic buying in the supplement market was sparked by the fires’ impact and came on top of tightening supply after three years of national drought.
“The latest reports are indicating things have ramped up to a whole new level. Hay is being sold faster than it can be delivered with not enough truck and trailer units to move the quantities going.”
Supplies of cereal and pasture hay in central and western Victoria have been good until now with some farmers even struggling to get their cereal crops off the paddock until early in the new year.
But expectations are now that supplies will be exhausted by March, leaving even those farmers not needing supplement immediately to replace burnt pastures vulnerable.
For some farmers in eastern districts hit by fires, finding supplement has become a matter of life and death for their remaining stock with pastures, crop and supplements destroyed.
ABC Rural has reported an army of angels truck convoy delivering supplements to farmers in East Gippsland, Victoria.
The 150 truck and trailer units delivered hay to the region where one farmer alone lost 200ha of pasture and fences and machinery.
Eastern states will now be heavily dependent on heavy autumn rain delivering some reprieve, with a second cut of pasture hay highly unlikely between now and then.
McKew said there are already high-level talks with the federal government about an emergency plan should the rain not come.
“Obviously, this is not an infinite product. But you do find people can get very creative when it comes to sourcing fodder. They may use sugar cane tops, even rice straw hay but at the end of the day the amount required is significant.”
He said it was highly unlikely Australian officials would seek to import supplement from New Zealand, given the inherent biosecurity risks.
Grain supplies could offer some reserve but are not completely suitable as a supplement.
“Really, what we need is a lot of rain to come and soon.”