Coastal cattle seek inland fodder in wake of NSW floods

Liz Wells March 29, 2021

Oyster farmers and others helped ferry fodder to stock stranded in the NSW coastal floods earlier this month. Photo: NSW Farmers

FARMERS on the north coast of New South Wales are looking inland for fodder for their beef and dairy cattle in the wake of this month’s floods which have wiped out many reserves of on-farm fodder, and crops sown for winter forage.

The flood-driven spike in demand for feed has coincided with a surge in supply coming from growers in central and northern NSW.

Following soaking rains inland and some localised flooding in regions like Moree and Mungindi, growers in cropping regions are now keen to sell hay cut last year to get it away from mice.

They are also looking to generate some cash flow now that rain has bolstered the outlook for the sowing of this year’s winter crop.

Coastal fodder lost

Norco Co-operative Limited is a major processor of Australian milk, and its member base is centred in Queensland and northern NSW.

Norco commodity trader Simon McDougall, who is based at Tamworth, sources feed inputs for the co-op’s members on the Mid North Coast which suffered the full force of NSW floods.

“There’s been a lot of pasture lost, and a lot of silage and hay made over the summer that has been lost too.

“Winter forage like oats and ryegrass has been planted and taken out by the floods.

“That will have to be replanted, and it could be six or eight weeks before it gets established.”

Farmers struggled to get feed to cattle in the midst of the flood. Mr McDougall said some had made the tough decision to downsize herds ahead of the normal annual culling of older cows.

“Some of our members have had to truck all of their cattle off their farms, and make some quick decisions about how to manage numbers.

“Even when the floodwaters recede, it takes a while to get a cow back to full milk production after they’ve had four or five days of not being milked, and being cold and wet.”

Herd reductions being carried out in coastal beef and dairy herds have tempered the spike in demand.

“We’ve already started to buy some hay as our members go from a very light grain assist and on to a short term heavier program until they can re-establish winter forage.”

Prices steady

Mr McDougall said prices for grain remained under pressure and have shown little movement in response to the floods, as the surge in supply has been greater than the pick-up in flood feeding demand.

“Unlike during the drought and bushfires we saw during the summer of 2020, we’ve got ample supplies of hay, and this pick-up in demand isn’t going to skyrocket prices.”

“Before the floods, we were getting calls from inland growers wanting to sell hay, and I had next to no buying interest.”

Mr McDougall sources product all through NSW and Queensland.

This includes many districts where mice have been infesting hay and grain not in sealed storages.

“With grain, in the past month we’ve seen the guys with silo bags getting pest pressure with pigs and mice and looking to sell.”

Road routes altered

Torrential rain on the coast and hinterland from Sydney to Brisbane has closed many roads used to transport grain and hay east across the Great Dividing Range.

While the Bruxner Highway from Tenterfield to Casino is still able to carry trucks bringing inputs from inland NSW to Norco’s NSW mill at Lismore, the Oxley Highway, Thunderbolt’s Way and Waterfall Way are all closed indefinitely due to landslides.

“All our coastal trucks are having to go south to Newcastle and back up the Pacific Highway.

“Logistically, there are some short-term challenges, but we’re able to work around all those.”


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