Continue Baling or Change Course

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1904 Ag

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I'm hoping to get a little input / perspective on the topic of hay equipment ownership vs hiring out or grazing that I've read several posts about but would like to get thoughts on this particular scenario. I've owned my own equipment for about 10 years now. I started with very basic old worn out equipment and have steadily worked up to better machinery but not new by any means. I had been doing custom work for people in the area the last few years but have quit that as of this season due to rising costs and just the general aggravation of it. Currently I am haying roughly 66 acres. 60 of which are irrigated. I typically bale up around 500-600 4x5s a season for myself and around 120 for my Dad on his property. I like to keep around 250 bales for my feeding purposes each year (35 cattle and a few goats). Most of the equipment is old - some older than others but I do have a small Ferguson tractor dedicated to raking, a Case 5240 running a JD469 round baler, a self propelled Challenger SP165 to cut and an old Ford industrial skip loader that moves the bales around.

Between fertilizer, equipment cost etc I figure I have around $45-$50 in a round bale the way things are going. In a non drought year there is hay to be had in the neighborhood of those prices usually. Repairs and maintenance are starting to become a frustration averaging $4000-$5000 per year over the last 5 years with me doing as much of the mechanic work as I am able to do. I'm on the fence about whether or not having the equipment is worth it or not - what I figure I have in each bale is just right there at the point where it doesn't seem to clear to me if it is better one way or the other. Would a person be better off adding more cattle and grazing the irrigated grass a big portion of the season and maybe just hiring someone to custom bale 1 cutting to account for most of the winter needs and parting ways with the equipment?

Right now I believe the equipment would bring pretty close to what I originally was able to purchase it for so I don't think I would take a hit for the most part on resale. The idea of eliminating several of those items and replacing them with 1 newer tractor with a good AC and comfortable cab to just move hay with is appealing. In the end though it is about the bottom line and right now it just seems like the best case scenario you can hope for is to break even if you can avoid a major mechanical breakdown.
 

Dsth

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as I read your post, I realized that I am in about the same frame of mind as you. I did custom baling for about 30 years and decided to quit because of the aggravation of some customers and cost to replace equipment. I have about 25-30 cow calf pairs and do my own hay. my equipment is the same that I used 22 years ago when we were in the dairy business. My main reason for doing my own hay rather than hire someone else to do it is basically because of available people close to me that have the time to do it. Seems like the window of opportunity to make good hay ( mostly all alfalfa around here) is limited because of weather. trying to hire it done when I want to cut, rake, and bale is the same time everyone else is trying to get their hay made. since you irrigate, the weather factor probably doesn't affect you. If local hay makers are readily available, I would think just hiring in done would make the most sense from what I read in your post. The one thing that I often ask myself is whether or not I enjoy what I am doing (raising cattle and farming as a hobby.) Hope you get some good replies back but my advise would be to ask yourself that question and base your decision on your answer. good luck.
 

Djm961

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I sold the hay equipment two years ago and started buying locally. I made sure to have a reliable and fair supplier before making the decision. I also have enough old barns on my place to keep 2 years worth of hay so its kind of like drought insurance for me. I think you will find that buying it is the better route and you can help make up some of the cost differences by having more time to manage your cows/ pastures.

A lot of the neighbors think I am crazy because all they think about is the cost hay might be in drought years. I simply tell them probably about the same cost as a major equipment break down that wasn't budgeted. Another thing to consider is no one said you have to buy hay in a drought year. You can always sell some cows and restock once pasture conditions improve
 

shaz

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I quit doing it myself 7 years ago when I lost my 3rd cutting due to my job. The question is - what other things does baling hay do for you? You're probably seeing people wanting you to bale and take all the hay. If so, you may have hay when no one else does. Is there anyone you could hire if you did get out?
 
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1904 Ag

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Thank you all for the replies. We do have a couple of custom balers in the area so I feel like I could get it baled up through one of them. I may not be too high on their list but considering most of it is irrigated and the bale per acre would be good I think it might be a job one of them would be willing to take on without too much trouble. We generally don't fight the weather windows as typically our hay seasons are fairly dry so windows to get it baled are usually good. I am considering setting up rotational paddocks under the irrigation and grazing most of the season until August and then stockpiling. I figure maybe get 1 cut custom baled to have some hay for winter maybe first of the season to clean things off. I figure stock my pastures for what they will carry during winter stocking rates with my cow calf pairs and maybe bring in some stockers during the growing season March to August to eat the excess and then ship them out. The last 2 season I did scale it back and only cut mine, my dad's and about 40 acres for a neighbor. The few years before that I was cutting around 300 acres of irrigated in addition to mine and my dad's so it has never been a very large operation but with the newest part of it being a 8 year old baler (22k bales) I guess things start to wear out. The swather is about 20 years old at this point and the main tractor is about 27.
 

Brute 23

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Knowing your area would help get more specific advice.

I'm of the same thinking you are describing. Put more land in to grazing and cut how many bales you need. Sell the hastles and get one reliable tractor that you enjoy working out of.

That all hinges on you being able to get a reliable custom bailer in your area.

Is holding on to the equipment a season or two to try the new route an option? If you don't like it you could go back to doing it yourself again.
 
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1904 Ag

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In the North/Central Texas area so I have irrigated coastal bermuda and tifton grass as hay fields as well as some dryland coastal pastures the cows generally run on. I could potentially hold on to the equipment another season or 2. I figured if I go this route I can just attempt to sell it for what I feel is a fair price and if the right buyer comes along great, if not it could stay put another season I guess if it had to.
 

kentuckyguy

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I have weighed the option of buying hay for a couple years just due to the cost and hassle of keeping equipment going and trying to beat rain.

What worries me is years like this one where nobody could afford to fertilize. Diesel fuel is outrageous along with baling twine. I think there’s going to be a short supply of hay this year.

There are less and less people baling here now. In 10 years I imagine it will be hard to find hay for sale.
 

lc2

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I sold my hay equipment 2 years ago and have not regretted it. I have a neighbor to custom cut/rake/roll my hay; all I do is move it out of the field and store it in the barn or outside.
I did not fertilize this year for I had applied good rates the previous years. My yields were down, as to be expected. But I can purchase hay cheaper than what the fertilizer was going to cost this year. I plan to stockpile hay to have a 2 year supply, just in case.
 

Stonewall Joe

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I'm hoping to get a little input / perspective on the topic of hay equipment ownership vs hiring out or grazing that I've read several posts about but would like to get thoughts on this particular scenario. I've owned my own equipment for about 10 years now. I started with very basic old worn out equipment and have steadily worked up to better machinery but not new by any means. I had been doing custom work for people in the area the last few years but have quit that as of this season due to rising costs and just the general aggravation of it. Currently I am haying roughly 66 acres. 60 of which are irrigated. I typically bale up around 500-600 4x5s a season for myself and around 120 for my Dad on his property. I like to keep around 250 bales for my feeding purposes each year (35 cattle and a few goats). Most of the equipment is old - some older than others but I do have a small Ferguson tractor dedicated to raking, a Case 5240 running a JD469 round baler, a self propelled Challenger SP165 to cut and an old Ford industrial skip loader that moves the bales around.

Between fertilizer, equipment cost etc I figure I have around $45-$50 in a round bale the way things are going. In a non drought year there is hay to be had in the neighborhood of those prices usually. Repairs and maintenance are starting to become a frustration averaging $4000-$5000 per year over the last 5 years with me doing as much of the mechanic work as I am able to do. I'm on the fence about whether or not having the equipment is worth it or not - what I figure I have in each bale is just right there at the point where it doesn't seem to clear to me if it is better one way or the other. Would a person be better off adding more cattle and grazing the irrigated grass a big portion of the season and maybe just hiring someone to custom bale 1 cutting to account for most of the winter needs and parting ways with the equipment?

Right now I believe the equipment would bring pretty close to what I originally was able to purchase it for so I don't think I would take a hit for the most part on resale. The idea of eliminating several of those items and replacing them with 1 newer tractor with a good AC and comfortable cab to just move hay with is appealing. In the end though it is about the bottom line and right now it just seems like the best case scenario you can hope for is to break even if you can avoid a major mechanical breakdown.
I did the custom baler thing for a while but the issues we ran into was everyone around you has hay that needs to be baled around the same time so our hay was sometimes cut late, after 3 years I just bought the euipment. I think as long as my 2 youngest sons are around I'll continue doing it
 

Dave

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I sold the hay equipment in 1998 and haven't looked back. Since then I have bought my hay. To me there are several advantages. I have more time in the summer. I can run more cows. And with the imported hay I am bringing nutrients on to the fields. I figured that 4 out of 5 years I could buy hay cheaper than making it.
Now on this place (moved here 4years ago) I lease the hay meadows to a neighbor. But the two of us do a partner deal on some cows. So I end up feeding the hay off my fields to the partnership cows. Not nearly as straight forward as I had the previous 20 years. It is a little complicated but has worked great for both of us.
 

Lazy M

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Many years ago I penciled out some numbers and determined that for my situation if I fed over 400 bales, it was worthwhile for me to bale my own hay. I currently feed around 1100 bales per year. This year, over 1/2 my hay will come from leased ground. Hay leases can be very good deals in this area. Many people will practically give you all the hay for free if you'll mow their farm twice a summer.. you gotta have the equipment to do that though
 

Brute 23

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One thing I thought about also if you have Tifton, we stockpile Tifton. If will stay green a pretty good whoke on bottom even through light freezes. It seems to hold protein and stuff also while stockpiled.

You might can get a good cutting on Tifton and stockpile it to graze with molasses through the winter. Not sure exactly how it acts in your area.
 

Lisagrantb

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Just a couple of thoughts. What’s your age and how long are you wanting to continue cutting your own. If something happens to the custom cutters or the price becomes intolerable what will you do then. Can you consolidate your equipment like having a Kuhn style cutter, rake and bailer. Not sure of weather in your area but for many years long ago we had only one tractor to do it all and didn’t really have a problem. We would Hook took the cutter and cut, the next day or so rake then switch to the bailer. Years ago we had a bailer go tits up so for the next couple of years we would cut and rake ourselves and just hired the bailing. My dad and I are of the mindset of being self reliant and my father-in-law just writes a check. So far both have worked, I guess it’s just the mindset. You are going to have to make the decision based on your conditions, the thing you can get from us is mostly just ideas of something you haven’t thought about.
 

anewcomer

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Jim Gerrish and most ag school budgets came to the same conclusion of buy/not bale 25 years ago. Better yet, stockpile and use less/none.
 

chevytaHOE5674

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Jim Gerrish and most ag school budgets came to the same conclusion of buy/not bale 25 years ago. Better yet, stockpile and use less/none.

If we all buy/not bale our hay then who will be left making the hay? And what price will they be able to charge? That philosophy works as long as there is someone left to bale your hay or sell you hay at a reasonable price.

As for stockpiling that works for some. For us in the north that are buried under 5 foot of snow for 6 months of the year that just isn't possible.
 

cowgirl8

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We custom bale and our own. We also bale land for weekenders who want their place looking good. We have a few places like that and they arent small. We get the hay, they get their place looking like a show place. This year we invested in 300,000 of new equipment, mainly because its getting hard to find, interest was at 0, and we got around 3000+ acres to bale from the solar farm. A couple months ago, it looked like we invested badly, but, got a few downpours over where we did first cuttings and its looking much better. We're probably at about 4000 rolls now and have only cut a portion of this solar farm. Anyone in our area needing hay, shoot me a PM.. You can get it out of the field, its all easily accessible.. If we move it before, it will cost more. Right now, we're holding onto most of it. We have a lot of people wanting it. Just heard our son in law sold 50.. My fear was being stuck with thousands of bales... but, looking like we wont have any trouble selling it. Good tight 4x5 1/2 rolls of mixed grasses, mainly johnson and there are some weeds, but, its mostly grass..
 

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