There were premium prices for top quality at the first Carter Jonas hay and straw sale of the year.

Auctioneer John Read reported that both wheat and barley straw averaged £60 a tonne but buyers confident of quality went to £80 a tonne.

The wet weather brought buyers out in force from the local area, Wales, and the West Country.

As a result, trade was much improved compared to the December sale even taking into account the usual stronger January demand.

"Our prices were better than some recent sales and there were few unsold lots," explains Mr Read.

"It would be normal for barley straw to fetch stronger prices than wheat but so many growers reacted to the poor end to 2012 by planting more spring barley and, with good harvest conditions, balers were busy resulting in larger availability that weakened prices.

"Hay generally sold well, with prices hitting £116 per tonne for quality meadow hay, although there may be signs that the premium market for small bale hay is diminishing as horse owners get to grips with the smaller sizes of big square bales. But while they weren't objecting to width, they still wanted quality.

"It was also noticeable that buyers were willing to bid strongly on the supplies from regular vendors, who have established a reputation for top quality."

Top price for wheat straw went to regular vendor Steve Miller, of Tangley, near Andover, selling per bale equating to £80 per tonne while Chris Read, of Barton Stacey was selling barley straw per bale equating to £80 per tonne, helped by the farm's good location close to A34 and A303.

The top price on hay was achieved by new vendors Chenol Farms, of Kingsclere, who sold meadow hay equating to £116 per tonne to the trade.

The next sale, again at Newbury Rugby Club, will be held at 2pm on March 6.