Growing Hay versus Buying Hay

Last year one of my clients was faced with a dilemma. Should he try to grow hay, or buy it. For large ranch owners it seems most prefer to grow it because they have a multi-operational ranch and are not just raising cattle. In my area most of the large land owners are absentee. So, as I did with him; lets break it down:

First consider the costs of planting haygrazer (Which is my favorite to feed)

A bag of seed that weighs 50 pounds costs approx. 50 dollars for the good stuff. Cost per acre: $20

Fertilizer: I did a cost comparison of fertilizer with all the local feed stores. The average costs per ton was approx. $500. The mix was around 25-10-5. N/P/K. At 200# per acre, your per acre costs is: $50 dollars

So that’s it right? Nope. How many bales per acre can you get? What does it costs to have me or another custom hay baler to come cut it? What about tractor time and diesel?

Let’s assume your ranch has a field tractor and a drill. Figure 10 dollars per acre in soil prep.

Let’s also assume it’s a “normal” year for rain and you figure 2 bales per acre.

And let’s assume you are going to have a custom hay baler (such as myself) come cut, rake, and bale your hay. Price per bale: $21 with a 2 bale per acre minimum = $42 Dollars

Your field you want to plant is 50 acres, so you are hoping for 100 bales of hay.

Let’s add it all up: Total costs: 500(Seed)+2500(Fert)+500(Tractor)+2100(Baling) =5,600/50acres =112/2(bales per acre) = 56 dollars per bale sitting the field.

We bought some haygrazer this year for 65 dollars per roll. But, we had a wet spring, and there is plenty of hay available right now. Last year that same hay was over 80 dollars per bale.

The overall answer is this: There isn’t a right answer! I just wanted to show you a cost break down. If you sprig coastal and it takes, your costs go way down. My neighbor had his 35 acre field sprigged at 180 dollars per acre and it failed. Ouch! We will cover this later. But for now, be thinking about what your spring time plan is. Thanks for reading.