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Straw - bucking the trend

Although the recent months have seen many of the equestrian sectors forewarn about rising costs and lack of certain materials, with the harvests completed it now seems that the straw industry is bucking these trends.

In a recent survey by Savills* it was found that fifteen percent more straw land has been baled this year than in 2017, returning to similar amounts as to what has been baled in recent years. Lisa Cooper director of straw based bedding company Nedz commented “This year our harvest has been very good so we couldn’t understand why a few months ago certain companies were warning about a shortage in the market. Last year the harvest wasn’t as strong but even with this shortage we had enough to be able to supply all of our retailers and consumers.”

Although some suppliers did struggle last season due to the bad weather, careful planning from companies and farmers has helped to ensure that this coming bedding season equine owners won’t be left short. In the last week it has been reported that straw prices have begun to drop from a 30 year high as a surplus amount of straw has made its way into the market. This return to the normal production of the product has meant that prices have fallen of the raw material. According to data from the British Hay and Straw Merchants’ Association prices are now around £7/t lower than at the beginning of August for barley straw and £11/t lower than wheat straw, coming down to a more stick price.

Mike Evison from the British Hay and Straw Merchants’ Association said “Now the straw has been baled we can see that the harvest has produced a normal level of straw again. In turn straw prices have dropped back from their 30 year high to more of the usual cost we had come to expect. In short there is plenty of straw, it isn’t cheap just at a normal cost level.”

The fall of prices from 2017 are a positive situation for both the equestrian companies who rely on straw for their products and their consumers. “Unlike many other companies Nedz have kept their prices the same since 2013, with only a small rise following last years challenging harvest,” commented Nedz Lisa Cooper “with the good harvest we have had this year we don’t see that it will be necessary to raise our prices and are positive that we will continue to provide top quality bedding priced between £7.00 and £8.50 to our customers.”

Whilst the future for straw products looks positive other bedding sectors are still suffering with supply issues and rising prices. In particular wood chip shavings, which have already seen a price increase, are set to continue upwards at they struggle with growing competition for the available raw materials.

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So is this a good time to begin to reeducate some consumers who may not be aware of the advancements around straw and straw production. Although straw in its raw form can be dusty technological advancements mean that now most straw can go through a dust extraction process, to create a healthy bedding for horses and other animals.

Lisa Cooper explained “At Nedz we use top quality straw which has been specifically sourced by us for the use of bedding. We have used the same straw suppliers for many years and are confident in their ability to grow a good quality product. Once the straw is harvested it then undergoes a process of chopping and shredding, followed by a rigorous dust extraction process which is tailor made by ourselves, to ensure there is absolutely minimal levels of dust in the end product. Our bedding is also then treated with an exclusive formula called Natural Nedz, which contains Manuka Oil, Cade Oil, Aloe Vera and Silver which combine to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and anti-insecticidal properties. This means your horse has all the traditional benefits of a straw bedding like comfort and absorbency alongside upgraded health benefits.”

It is also worth noting that when speaking with customers who are looking at costs of their bedding that not all straw bedding is the same. Just because a bale is cheaper doesn’t make it more economical, as it may not contain the same bulkage as another more expensive bale. Some fall apart very easily, with low compaction and wheat straw for instance doesn’t have as higher absorbency as rape straw bedding.

With the drop in straw prices both retailers and consumers should see a consistent level in pricing for straw bedding, which should continue throughout the winter and spring. Retailers can therefore confidently advise their customers that switching to a straw bedding like Nedz, will help them to budget accordingly for the upcoming months and avoid the need for panic buying.

 

*according to a survey of more than 32,000ha of cereal and oilseed rape land by Savills and reported in Farmers Weekly