Fodder R,D&E Stocktake Highlights Missed Opportunities: Make Hay While The Sun Shines!

Media Release – 09 April 2024 

The Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) has today released a “Fodder Research, Development and Extension Stocktake” report highlighting significant missed opportunities which could serve to address drought preparedness and resilience across Australian agriculture.

“The report highlights that where fodder R,D&E is underway it is often fragmented, results and knowledge gained are not being broadly shared between researchers and agriculture sectors, and collaboration is minimal,” said Ms Paula Fitzgerald, CEO, Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA).

“Fodder is a critical resilience tool, yet this appears not be broadly recognised,” she said. “In times of drought and flood, governments often take reactionary approaches to fodder particularly to support animal welfare needs, yet we believe the greatest opportunity exists outside of crisis times,” she said.

“It is understandable that fodder is often viewed through a specific commodity lens, but we believe there are benefits to be had in collaboration and the sharing of research outcomes.”

“We need a critical mass ‘focus on fodder’ and recognition of its importance as a resilience tool. Despite significant funding for drought preparedness, there appears to be minimal focus on the national importance of fodder and the critical role it plays,” she said.

The report’s 15 observations can be summarised in four key areas of opportunity:

  • Make hay while the sun shines – identify mechanisms to encourage growers to make hay during ‘good times’ in preparation for challenging times such as drought and flood. The cost of de-stocking and re-stocking is significant (both livestock and genetics). De-stocking often occurs because of anticipated rising feed costs, yet if fodder was available on-farm, this cost could be reduced.
  • Optimise opportunity – provide learning opportunities for growers to facilitate education on the best methods for cutting, curing, baling and storing hay, with a strong resilience focus in terms of producing a high-quality product (resulting in better nutritional value) and minimising pest attack. The past decade has seen a doubling of on-farm storage for grain, the opportunity is how to address this for fodder (hay and silage).
  • Tackle low hanging fruit – identify the key elements causing hay fires and develop a ‘toolkit’ to manage and reduce this risk. From the September 2023-February 2024 period, AFIA collated 48 hay fires across the country. Hay fires have significant impact in terms of fodder loss, infrastructure (sheds and machinery) destroyed, resources of emergency services personnel, and livestock impact in terms of reduced fodder availability. While some research is focussing on particular production points, there is a need for an ‘all of production cycle’ focus.
  • New tools – encourage technology experts to work with the industry, utilising their skills, to develop tools which target industry priorities and in turn, reduce risk and improve confidence in the fodder sector.

“Some of the issues identified through the Stocktake Report, such as quality and hay fires, have been largely left unaddressed for decades,” she said. “Now is the time to focus, invest and solve,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“In addition to these report findings, we have anecdotal evidence from our members, that fodder production carries with it greater risk, compared with the production of alternate crops,” she said.

“This increased risk comes as a result of the time from production to sale (unlike grain, fodder is rarely sold ‘straight off the header’), fodder producers having to store and market the product themselves in a deregulated market, and the increased weather risk due to the curing window length.”

“We believe this situation needs further assessment, as it comes at a time when dairy and livestock businesses are looking to grow,” she said. “A decline in fodder production, as a result of farmers choosing alternate crops, would present the broader agriculture sector with a significant challenge,’ said Ms Fitzgerald.

AFIA would like to acknowledge Southern Farming Systems for funding to support this scoping project, via the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub program, and thank Dr Steve Thomas, of ST Strategic Services, for assisting AFIA in the compilation of this Stocktake report.

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The Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) is the national, independent voice for the Australian fodder industry. We connect the entire supply chain – from seed to feed.

The Fodder R,D&E Stocktake report can be found at:

AFIA’s assessment of hay fires (spring 2023 – summer 2024) can be found here: