1.1 Definition of the hay market
Hay is, according to the Larousse dictionary, a dried fodder, most often composed of alfalfa or timothy, intended for feeding herbivores. Drying mowed grasses allow for longer conservation and therefore plays a role in feeding domestic herbivorous animals when grass is lacking in grazing areas (winter, drought, etc.). Its nutritional characteristics distinguish it for example from the straw, which is made of grass stalks that are low in nutrients because they are separated from the grains when threshing the cereals. The low humidity level (about 15% to 20%) also distinguishes it from silage grass preserved by fermentation with a moisture content of grass (about 35 to 45%).
The hay market is, therefore, a sub-segment of the forage market. Forage production, according to the Statistics and Foresight Department of the Ministry of Agriculture (AGRESTS) includes the production of artificial grassland (sown with fodder legumes grown for a maximum of 3 years and cultivated), temporary grassland (sown with fodder grasses for less than 6 years) and permanent grassland (sown or of natural origin, they have produced at least 1500 fodder units per hectare for more than 6 years). Temporary and permanent meadows are intended for mowing, silage or grazing.
The hay market is also a sub-segment of the animal nutrition market, which comes from cereals at 52% (source: Businesscoot). It concerns livestock herbivorous animals (they require human intervention to feed all year round): the ruminants (sheep, cattle, goats and buffalo) and non-ruminant (horses, donkeys, mules).
In France in 2018, the vast majority of herbivore herds are composed of cattle (18.5 million head) and sheep (7.2 million head). Goat (1.2 million head) and equine (1 million head) herds are smaller (sources Agreste and IFCE ).
Meteorological aspects, as with any food commodity, play a crucial role in the amount of hay produced. Grass growth was in deficit in 2018. Hay production is thus threatened, especially as the impact of the downward trend in meat consumption threatens the market.
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