Farmers told to prepare for lucerne shortage

A severe shortage of lucerne is expected in South Africa and livestock producers are advised to start sourcing supplies of the forage plant for the 2016 winter season as soon as possible

- Advertisement -

Lucerne exports and high maize prices have partly driven the current sharp rise in the lucerne price, said Attie Scholtz, an export lucerne producer from Douglas.

Producers were increasingly allocating hectares earmarked for lucerne production to maize because of high maize prices. On the other hand, local lucerne was also increasingly sought after because of its exceptionally high quality. SA lucerne producers exported 80 000t of lucerne in 2014 and the goal was to export 180 000t this year. Lucerne currently trades for between R2 300 and R2 400 per ton, excluding transport costs, said Scholtz.

“One does not know what the future holds but I would strongly advise livestock producers to procure contracts for 2016,” he said.

- Advertisement -

He estimated transport costs at an additional R500 per ton. “We nevertheless expect the local demand to increase should government aid for drought stricken farmers realise,” he said.

Lubbe Jacobs, animal nutritionist and animal feed manufacturer from Hartswater, said the demand for licks and supplemental feed had also increased markedly. His company, for instance, sold 5 000 bags of winter cattle lick from October 2014 to November 2014 compared to well over 20 000 bags since October 2015.

“I don’t think the high demand will increase as the season continues because producers have already cut their herds to the bare minimum,” said Jacobs.

Livestock producers were also increasingly making use of chicken litter, a relatively cheap source of protein, as a feed supplement, he said.