Cost of Hay

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If you would ''demand'' twice as much for your calves, the hay price doesn't matter.
I buy all of my hay, usually buy from a neighbor except for the last 2 years due to drought he's only had enough for his own cows. I have been paying $25-$35/ 4x5 bale weighing approximately 800 lbs hauled to me, fertilized or chicken littered fields. Last year I bought some pretty sorry hay for $40/ bale hauled due to the drought. This year I paid $50/bale for pretty good hay hauled to me, guessing the bales 750-800lbs. These are pretty typical prices around me because everyone and their cousin bales hay, mostly fields they get to bale for free just to keep them cut. I keep 2 years worth of hay in the barn right now. You can buy good fertilized cow hay all day for $60-$65 around here even in a dry year and quality horse hay for $65-$75 a roll.
Just because "everybody and their cousin bales hay" doesn't mean they are running it as a profitable business.

I got neighbors that sell hay for $20-30 and squares for $2.50. They have told me plenty of times as long it pays for the fuel and twine that's all that matters.... when I ask about all the other costs (equipment, insurance, parts, maintaince, fertilizer, rent, yada yada) they get a deer in the headlights looks like I'm the crazy one.
I run a pretty small herd so I can graze as much as possible and get by with only having to have 1/3 of my hayfied. I let the guy that feeds hay all year long make my hay. He does run a lot more cattle so he can say that…

When he quits I will have to get in or get out because there is not a reliable source around here to buy and I am not chasing down hay every year And dealing with that.
I almost fell off the tractor seat after raking some hay when son came down to bale... and we talked for a couple minutes... told me about a neighbor farmer that just went and bought a new baler... and said what do you think they cost now???? I said 40-45,000... he said how about 65,000... no way will we ever own a new one unless one of us wins the lottery. We have 3 balers... and one more old one for parts that we have taken the roller teeth pick up out of, and keep taking other parts off of it.... he checks in with a dealer and watches for ones turned in on trade in the past... may never be able to find another... all I know is they are big New Hollands... and our newest tractor is over 20 years old... most are pre 1990's... and one good thing... do not have to worry about any electronic sensors shutting them down or any of that crap either....
I will die before we get to the point where we can't do the basic work ourselves...
So at $65 an hour take a small $20 per hour wage our for yourself (that's what the local gas station pays). So for $45 an hour you can own and operate the equipment? Insure it? Save money for its replacment? Etc?

I won't start up any piece of equipment with an operator for less than $100 an hour and it goes up from there.

You charge $7.5 for a 4x5 bale?

On a 4x5 bale I have about $1.50 in net wrap alone. So for $6 you can operate the tractor and baler? Maintain them both? Save money for a replacement? As well as pay yourself a wage?

As a custom operator myself I would park my equipment and watch you work and actually save money by watching mine sit.

Don't think I'm picking on you. I was you 10 years ago with paid for equipment and charging $26 per 4x5 bale. Then I wrecked a $2000 tire and a $1500 gearbox in a short period and I sat down with the pencil and got an education real quick. I was basically running all over the county baling hay for free when I got honest with myself
$200 an acre or $200 an hour is the going rate here in the SW.
We have 3 balers.........and our newest tractor is over 20 years old... most are pre 1990's... and one good thing... do not have to worry about any electronic sensors shutting them down or any of that crap either....

So you own, house, and maintain 3 balers? Do any one of them have the capacity and reliability of a single newer machine?

I own mostly 30+ year old tractors which are great for the "old non electronic reliability" except for the fact that parts are getting harder to procure and more costly. No running to the dealer for parts, it can turn into a worldwide internet search.

Also the newer tractors are more ergonomic, user friendly, fuel efficient, and comfortable. I can spend 20 hours in my 2009 tractor with full suspension cab and axle and not feel like I went 8 seconds on a bull, all while burning less fuel than its 30yo counterpart and getting more done.

Older equipment has its pluses. But it typically can't compete in terms of efficiency, and user comfort.
Yes, we have and house and maintain 3 round balers... One is 4x5 net wrap..with the wide high capacity pickup.... 2 are 5x5 (or 6) twine wrap. All are over 20 yrs old, (maybe closer to 30, I keep forgetting that 1990's weren't 5 years ago...) Between the 3 we have a total of $10,000 cost, invested... belts are interchangeable on the 2 bigger ones as are all the parts. The net wrap baler was bought from the estate of the friend that passed away, and we recently bought the farm from his widow. We do custom baling for one guy (inherited that job from the deceased friend also) and make some smaller rounds for sale since many cannot handle the big bales we like for our use. One of the big balers was bought as a trade in for less than $2500 several years ago... needed 2 belts that were cheaper back then, some pick up teeth....

The thing is here, if something breaks down we can go get another baler and keep on getting the work done. Has happened a time or 2... usually a bearing or something but down time we cannot afford when our baling window is short.
The new ones may be touted as reliable.. but this year alone we had to go help 2 different neighbors with "new, reliable, high capacity" balers that broke down and they needed the hay baled "Right Now"... one sold a baler similar to our old "reliables" and he said he was SO SORRY he had turned that baler in...... should have at least kept it for a backup.

We only had one for years, and would get stuck with a break down and watch the clouds come in and had to get someone to come "bale us out" at the last minute to not have a good field get soaked and ruin the hay... He sold that first round baler and bought a used bigger NH one....
Then he watched and picked up another when he found one turned in on a new one... then we bought the one from the estate... the parts baler was one that was "wrecked"... less than 1,000 in it, with 2 nearly brand new belts, and we figured that when he ran over some ledge in one field and bent the he// out of the pickup roller... that he made back almost the cost of it just in that salvaged part.
The big old Deutz 1006 will run all day on a half tank of diesel and just chugs right along... it goes up and down a hill at the same speed... just "putts" right along. He uses it alot on the sq baler since it is reliable and is very fuel efficient. He uses the Agco-Allis on the round baler or the big old 7040 Allis Chalmers; (both have cabs and even AC to combat the dust and heat)... which is a heavy monster but will not blink at the round baler on side hills that I hate to rake the hay on... some places I am holding on to the fender of the ford 4600 to not slide off the seat. They both are better on fuel than the JD 4wd he has.. it drinks fuel like water... it was also bought from the estate....and is the one set up to run the 4x5 net wrap baler.

I don't want a cab on a tractor I am raking hay with... I want to be "closer" to the sounds of the rake and the tractor... I want to hear what is going on... and yes, I wear ear protectors... they have a radio and I seldom play it...except in the flatter fields with few/no rocks... I like being out in the air most days unless it is 95 out. Which is seldom, here. Would like a canopy on it for the hotter sunny days... but I can manage...
Yeah, the seats aren't always that comfortable... but we put a new one (after market kind) on my 4600 a couple years ago and will do it again. The 6600 needs a new seat.
My Farmall H tricycle front end, has the OLD steel seat... I usually put a cushion on it... but it is invaluable for the small cut up shaped fields for raking with the side delivery rake... and it runs forever on a tank of gas....even got an umbrella for real hot days....
We do not usually need to spend 20 hours at a stretch in/on a tractor seat... and comfort is nice.. but we also are not making any payments... and these old bones and muscles may be crying a little after a 4-6-8 hour stretch on the tractor seat... but with the size, and shape and terrain of many places we make hay, we don't cut that much at a time that we can't get it up in a "hurry" if the weather calls for it. There is the advantage that he cuts, I do most of the raking, and tedding if need be, during the day, and he bales after work.

May not be the "most modern or efficient" operation... but we get alot done with both of us working jobs... and taking care of the cattle and all that... and we watch our pennies.

Along that line, contrary to the "older is fine".... son has turned in the discbine, every 5 years for the last 3 times.... and buys a new one because of the cost of the maintenance on them... and we cut some rough places... with the turn in value on the last 2, he has had less than 6500 in a brand new one and runs it for 5 years so pretty cheap costs.. gets the depreciation and all that... now that may not happen this time with the much increased costs of new... but we also have 3 less "rough rocky places" than what we used to so not quite as rough on it now.... not my dept... when he sold the haybine, I quit any cutting... at least the haybine didn't throw the blades to try to kill you like the discbine can do... a b#@%h to get down and put new cutter blades on the haybine.. don't know if I could get down now and get back up with these new knees... but I carried a bucket with a few tools and blades and the rivets with me, and could fix any that were broken...

He might decide to go with newer fancier equipment in the future... but when the computer shut down the dually p.u. that he bought from my dad a few years before he passed... it is a 2014 or 2016 maybe... and we had to limp off the highway and get a ford dealership to deal with the fact that it shut down due to temp swings... because of an air pocket from a minor seepage that you normally would have just added more water and went on... and I am not talking "overheating" or anything dangerous...., but cannot add enough water/antifreeze to fill up the air pocket where the temp sensors are... and the guy at the ford dealership that was really great about getting us in on a Sat morning... told him that all these new ones have all these "safety features" that are a PITA.... but that made him say, I am not sure I like all this computer run crap....
God bless those that have them and like them... I am not sold on things that need all these complicated solutions to just make them run.
Just because "everybody and their cousin bales hay" doesn't mean they are running it as a profitable business.

I got neighbors that sell hay for $20-30 and squares for $2.50. They have told me plenty of times as long it pays for the fuel and twine that's all that matters.... when I ask about all the other costs (equipment, insurance, parts, maintaince, fertilizer, rent, yada yada) they get a deer in the headlights looks like I'm the crazy one.
Nailed it!
That hay producer isn't just running one tractor either.
Time you invest in tractors plural, baler, rakes, tedder, float to move equipment and hay, you can't pencil out 40 dollar hay. Add fuel and fertilizer and it really goes up.
I quit bailing in 2011 and my cost to produce my own hay was over 40 bucks a roll.
I have one single newer round baler and have yet to have a breakdown that puts me out of commission in the last probably 22,000 bales. I can also bale nearly twice as much hay in a single day with my current baler/ tractor combo than i was with just 2 generations older of baler and an old tractor.

We have short weather windows and short summers (frost in June and August this year, snow in May and September) . Often only 3 hours of baling time a day. If I can't get close to 200 bales done out of multiple small odd shaped fields in that time with one single operator then I would still be trying to make hay with snow on the ground.

It's not about how much fuel an operation sips in a day. It's about how much fuel per ton of hay produced....
My JD dealer sells brand new jd 450e balers (netwrap) for $27,499. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of course and probably not something i would have a hay business with but for a small farm that had to make their own hay? Maybe?
Forgot to mention the deutz 1006 and Ac 7040 are great tractors. But when things break down it could be an issue.

Probably 10 years ago already a neighbors deutz 1006 knocked a tooth off a gear on the first day of hay season. That tractor sat for 6+ months in my shop while we tracked down good usable salvage parts to put it all back together as new wasn't available back then.

I personally own an AC 7030 and have had to get a shaft and housing welded up and machined down at a local machine shop as new parts aren't available.

Both were fixable. But not in any sort of "get back to making hay" timeliness. Also at great additional cost.
Nearly 30k for a base model JD baler with one of the poorest pickups and reliability of any current offerings? Seems like a bargain.

That's just less than I paid for a brand new top of the line optioned out baler years ago.
Well for me buying hay isn't practical mostly because trucking makes it prohibitive. No one close by sells hay, they feed it. And the BTO's snap up any that does come up within 60 miles.
So like ChevyTahoe we have a very short window to get the hay put up. It's one cut and we need to make enough to feed for 200-220 days. Therefore we keep fresh haying equipment. There really isn't much choice. We keep a couple of newer tractors, and run a couple of older ones. We would never come to a standstill because one tractor blew up.
Now if I were only haying a quarter or two obviously there would be a different business model. Everyone's situation is a bit different.
As Silver said everyone's situation is different. I am not too far from miles of irrigated ag. One of the standard crop rotations for the PNW is 2 years of wheat, 2 years of potatoes, and 4 years of alfalfa. Almost all the hay put in big squares because they haul better. Trucks loaded with hay going by on the freeway all the time.
Everyone's situation is indeed different.

What's the same for everyone is the staggering increase in production cost the last few years. If you keep newer late model equipment you are fully aware of this, if you have older stuff bought a few years ago you may not be as aware.

Take FarmerJans 3 balers with a total cost of 10k of less. In today's current market I just watched a 4x5 net wrap NH baler with 35,000 bales on it sell for 9,500 at auction and a JD with a few less bales sell for over 10k. 4 years ago those were $2500 dollar machines. So buying 3 balers for less than 10k would be lucky to get you some old New Holland chain balers in the current market.
It's times like this that keeping that equipment updated pays some dividends. I paid $34,000 CAD for my NH 313 discbine back about 2015. Traded it off this fall after having cut over 10,000 acres and it cost me $30k difference. They gave me what I paid for the old one. So I guess the cost of ownership was in the neighbourhood of $3 an acre.
Just because "everybody and their cousin bales hay" doesn't mean they are running it as a profitable business.

I got neighbors that sell hay for $20-30 and squares for $2.50. They have told me plenty of times as long it pays for the fuel and twine that's all that matters.... when I ask about all the other costs (equipment, insurance, parts, maintaince, fertilizer, rent, yada yada) they get a deer in the headlights looks like I'm the crazy one.
I'm not in the business of making sure they are profitable, that's their business, but a few of them make a living that way so must be making a profit somehow. Don't know, not my business, I just know what the going rate is in this area. You kinda act like it makes you mad that some of us are buying hay or having hay produced cheaper than you can do it yourself.
Only mad I can't find someone to bale my hay that cheaply. Cant fault the buyer one bit. Like I said if I could buy or have hay baled as cheap as some of you guys I would park everything I own other than a loader, net the same income, and take up another summer hobby.

I feel like some of those producers will be in for a shock when upgrading/replacing equipment becomes necessary and they realize their dollar doesn't go even half as far as it did just a few years ago.

I was charging $20-30 for custom baling as far back as 10 years ago. And it profitable to the point I paid off all my equipment back then. But now 10 years later seeing guys charge those same prices is a head scratcher when all input costs have trippled.

Take away for me is: as a buyer be happy and buy all the $20-30 hay and custom baling you can. As a producer don't sell yourself short and make sure to include all your costs and always be saving enough for your next replacment or major repair.
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