In the summer time in Texas, you can always be sure of two things – hot and dry! So, in early spring each year comes a consideration – should I plant haygrazer to try to produce my own hay for the coming winter, or let someone else worry with growing, cutting and baling and just buy it?
- Is there moisture to germinate the seed in March and April when haygrazer is normally planted here?
- Do I have a place to plant it? This year, every cultivated acre on my place was in wheat, so my only choice for planting was to wait until after wheat harvest, then plant my hay producing seed. Big Problem: Normally wheat harvest is late May into June and it’s dry, dry, dry – and hot!
- Even when I have a place to plant my hay production crop early, the next problem is getting someone to cut and bale the hay at the proper time. I don’t own haying equipment, so must hire it done and normally, when my hay is ready, so is everyone else’s and I have to just be added to the list of the custom hay baler. He’ll get to it when he can.
- Then, there’s the cost of cutting and baling. My preference is to roll the hay into large round bales. Cost for a custom baler to do that has gone into the low $20’s per bale – last I had baled was $23 per roll – minimum charge, 1 roll per acre. Although I would like to produce at least 2 rolls per acre, sometimes in this dry, hot country, that’s not possible.
So, let’s look at cost of production versus purchasing.
Seed: This year the price of haygrazer seed ranges from $42 – $50 per 50# bag, depending on whether it’s a 3-way cross or brown mid ribbed. Cost per acre for BMR: $20.00
Fertilizer: Normally, I apply 200# of 30-10-0. Cost per ton in 2012: $540.00 (this varies from week to week) Cost per acre: $54.00
Soil preparation and planting (tractor/equipment costs) Cost per acre: $10.00
Mowing and baling (I’m being optimistic and hoping to produce 2 rolls per acre). Cost per roll: $23.00 x 2 = $46.00 per acre
For easy figuring, we’re going to assume 50 acres of haygrazer which produces 100 rolls of hay. Cost per roll produced: $60.00
Looking at the hay for sale listings on Craigslist in our area, prices for wheat hay (at the time of writing this article, there were no offers of haygrazer hay for sale), the prices for large rolls (5 x 5) range from $90 to $125 per roll (delivery not included).
So, on the outside, it looks as if I could save money by producing my own hay. But, the big IF is, can I actually produce what I put down on paper? What if it doesn’t rain? Do I go ahead and “dry sow” and hope for a rain? Do I prepare, then wait for the rain before sowing?
Or, should I go ahead and “lock in” (purchase) hay at current prices, because, if it doesn’t rain, the price of hay is going to do the same as last year – skyrocket in price!
Next consideration: What’s the quality of the proposed “purchased” hay?
I haven’t actually come to a firm conclusion as to what I will do this year – yet. But, that decision will have to be made very shortly. The raise or buy decision is one faced each and every year. Some years are easier than others – mainly dependent upon moisture conditions.
Maybe the decision would be easier if I just followed the advice of an older mentor a good many years ago: “Son, in farming, you have to do what you can do (fertilize, plant, spray herbicides, etc.) to produce the most you can produce – every year –just like it’s going to be an ideal season. Some years it works, some years it doesn’t!”