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Thinking Of Making Hay

Thinking of making hay? Wondering what is best between hay and grain? All your questions are answered below. So take the time to
read on.
 
An important point to digest before you read on is that over many years Feed Central has observed that one feature stands out about successful hay operations—that ALL good decisions are planned early and logistics (including marketing) organised to achieve this success. You can start the marketing process now by advising us that you might be making or have to sell now

I have hay to sell (CLICK HERE) I am thinking of making hay (CLICK HERE)

In a nut shell, here’s what hay buyers want:

  • Oats, barley, wheat and lucerne that is green in colour and with no (or minimal) weather damage.

  • Generally very heavy, large, square bales that maximize freight and handling efficiencies for all.

  • Feed with high energy is vital. The higher the energy (M.E.) the better. The best way
    to increase energy is to cut early (very early flower, before the crop gets rank).



To help you make sound decisions about hay making & marketing hay, we have provided answers to some common questions along with hot tips on successful hay making and marketing.

  Q.1 - Will there be a market for my hay? 
  Q.2 - What about supply, will there be an oversupply?
  Q.3 - Why make hay?
  Q.4 - What type of hay should I make?
  Q.5 - How much do you think hay will be worth on farm?
  Q.6 - I’d like to sell my hay straight after baling, can Feed Central do that?
  Q.7 - What bale size do buyers prefer?
  Q.8 - How do I pick and pay a contractor?
  Q.9 - What do you think, should I make hay or silage?
  Q.10 - When is the best time to cut and bale my hay?
  Q.11 - How long do I cure for and when do I start baling?
  Q.12 - If I bale straw, can Feed Central sell it?
  Q.13 - How do I calculate if I am better off making hay or harvesting grain?
  Q.14 - Where should I store hay on my farm?  
  Q.15 -How do I tarp large square bales?


To help guide you through your hay making experiences, the following fact sheets may be very useful.


Q. 1: Will there be a market for hay?

The short answer is ABSOLUTELY - YES. Every year around 9 million tonnes of fodder (hay, straw and silage) is made. Total value is around $1.3 billion. Approximately half is traded and half retained for on farm use.

This being said, buyers are increasingly interested in quality hay. Growers with quality hay have and continue to be rewarded. Buyers use the Feed Central web selling system because it gives them extensive quality descriptions and consistent grading across all hay, straw and silage lines.

Sellers use the Feed Central system to help them differentiate their product in a competitive market place.

 

Q. 2: What about supply, will there be an oversupply?

The short answer is – NO, we do not believe so. Historically Feed Central always seems to run out of good quality hay to sell.

The shortage most often eventuates during autumn and winter months.

There is a long term market opportunity for good quality hay. This market is growing and has historically been under supplied.

 

Q. 3: Why make hay?

Quality hay will often out perform most crops on a grass margin per ha basis. Fodder crops provide an important weed and disease management strategy and these ‘hidden’ rotational benefits need to be considered. Additionally, fodder crops allow grazing to occur earlier than with a grain crop and in some regions facilitate double cropping.

Drought, frost etc. can result in non-traditional hay crops being a very viable income opportunity.

 

Q. 4: What type of hay should I make?

Any grass pasture, cereal, legume or oilseed that will have a good feed analysis can be cut for hay. Examples of these are below:

Lucerne Hay: Lucerne makes very nice hay and can be expected to feed test very well. Irrigation water for lucerne production is short, therefore expect low supply. Good lucerne hay will be in strong demand, especially from dairies.

Cereal Crops: Wheaten hay has provided exceptional feed analysis in recent years; subsequently it has created a very strong position in dairy feed rations. Expect demand for wheaten hay to be strong. Barley hay has also proven to feed test very well. Oaten hay has been available for many years and while it has not been producing feed test results as good as wheat or barley, it is an exceptional product and can be expected to be in strong demand.

Canola Hay: Canola does feed test very well, but is has a different taste and smell. Buyers either love it or hate it. It is not the purchase of first choice for most hay buyers. Clients should be aware that there is a potential of nitrate poisoning with canola, an issue that Feed Central tests for and can be managed with care.

Pasture Hay: Based on past experience any pasture with strong lucerne or clover content will feed test well and will be in good demand, with pricing subject to the feed analysis.

Peas, Vetch, Beans etc: Expect very strong demand for these lines, especially where the feed analysis is good. Traditionally only low volumes of these types are produced.

Millet Hay: Red Pannicum and Panaroma Millets make a very consistent good quality hay in summer, where either irrigation or summer rainfall allows. Millet hay is an exceptional option in cooler and lighter soiled country in Southern Queensland. Millet straw can also be a solid option, once the grain has been harvested.


The advantages of millet hay:

  Fast maturity but not too fast
  Uses less water and nutrients than forage sorghum
  Under stress it stops growing and then re-starts again after rain. It does not panic. Therefore even with drought stress it can yield well, especially if rain eventually falls
  Like cereal, cut in flower when the head is out and easier to dry down/cure
  Good feed test
  Open pollinated, therefore seed can be kept from one year to the next. Plant thick e.g. 15-30 kg ha to maximise plant population and decrease stem thickness
  Yields very well over one cut e.g. 3 tonne / acre, therefore low cost of production
  Open to all markets, including horses

The main disadvantages of millet are it’s vulnerable to heat stress at emergence and low germination percentages on heavy soils. On the other hand, it does enjoy light textured soils, a fine seed bed and after the two leaf stage it is a very tough plant. The best varieties for hay production are red pannicum and panorama. White French millet is not suitable for hay production.

Forage Sorghum: A high attention to detail is required to make good quality forage sorghum hay. Producers who specialise in it and focus on cutting it young and getting it cured can do very well out of the product. Generally buyers steer away from forage sorghum hay, during to historical experience in buying low grade forage sorghum hay.



Some of the pitfalls include:

  Grows too fast
  Uses a lot of water and nutrients
  Relatively Low yield (unless there is a lot of rain)
  Even when irrigated the crop does not seem to perform well
  Budget on 3 tonnes per acre from 3 cuts
  Cutting the crop 3 times to get 3 tonne increases harvest costs
  Very slow and difficult to dry down / cure
  Seed is expensive
  Limited market uses
  Generally poor feed analysis results; newer varieties are better than the old, but results are still highly variable
  Not suitable for the horse market
  Potential for prussic acid and nitrate poisoning. Newer varieties have dramatically lower risks, but a risk is still there.



The advantage of forage sorghum is that it is very easy to germinate and grows  vigorously in the right conditions (e.g. Queensland summer storms).  It thrives in warm moist conditions, drier cooler conditions slows the product down and probably improves the manageability of the product (e.g. southern Victorian summer, where some summer rain can be expected or irrigation is available).

 

Q. 5: How much do you think hay will be worth on farm?

Based on historical experience and depending on quality, storage and location, cereals hay will generally market from $100-$200 per tonne ex farm and lucerne around $150-350. Mixed low legume content pasture hay, summer forages and canola approximately $30 less per tonne than cereals. Vetch and peas with a good feed test will sell for $30-50 per tonne less than lucerne hay. Millet hay can be expected to trade at similar levels to cereal hay, while forage sorghum can trade between $30-50 per tonne below cereal hay.

Obviously over the last ten years prices have varied well above and well below the prices indicated here. The market extremes have been taken out of this information as they are abnormal.

 

Q. 6: I’d like to sell my hay straight after baling, can Feed Central do that?

Unlike the grains industry, the fodder industry has no big accumulators, storage/warehousing systems, futures markets, very few speculators and generally only operates in the physical market.
This is probably a good thing; however, it does mean that at times the fodder industry works slower than the grains industry, but it still works.

Considering the points above, a marketing period of 1-6 months after baling is realistic, but depending on seasonal conditions possibly even 6-12 months, which is similar to many grains.
Remember buyers need hay all year round, not just when you are producing it so storing and selling later can be an exceptional option. The most efficient place to store hay is on your farm.

This being said Feed Central undertakes an extensive Forward Order program. This program puts contracts in place between suppliers and buyers. The contracts are tested, binding and enforceable. Remember buyers want hay 12 months of the year, not just when you are producing it so traditionally very few contracts state a delivery period straight behind the baler. Most contracts have a delivery spread in place, which states the period of time the product needs to be held on farm for.

 

Q.7: What bale size do buyers prefer?

With rising fuel prices achieving legal pay loads on trucks is one of the most important things to consider when making hay. Legal pay loads are determined by bale dimensions and bale weight.

In the Feed Central system buyers are quoted delivered prices. Obviously the heavier bales are the lower freight cost per tonne. Growers with heavy bale weights will often get a higher ex-farm price as the freight component is cheaper, so even though the supplier’s ex-farm price is higher, the buyers price is lower, SO EVERYONES A WINNER.

Large square bales, especially the size 8x4x3 are very popular because you get an excellent load on a Drop-Deck or B-Double trailer and most front end loaders can handle the weight. Some lucerne buyers prefer 8x3x3, but any square bale size provides more efficient and competitive freight advantages compared to large round bales. If you must make round bales consider 4x4 bales which have freight advantages over 5x4 rounds. Small square bales are for niche markets.

Large square bales are normally cheaper to make when calculated on a per tonne basis. It is also quicker and easier to move a large volume of large squares both on farm and on trucks.

Do not under estimate the importance of this. Bale weights and sizes is the area where smart growers maximise their returns and create huge efficiencies in their operation. In very simple terms how image all the extra work and man hours required to move 250 kg bales off your paddock verse 750 kg bales. Think of the cost. Now multiply this ten fold as you think about loading, transport, unloading etc. Now calculate the cost of carting 10 tonnes of round bales 300 kilometers, verse 25 tonne of large squares 300 kilometres. Yes at $r/ km freight the round bales are $120 per tonne freight. While the large squares are just $48 per tonne freight.

BOTTOM LINE - Maximum efficiencies are gained in 8x4x3 bales, 8x3x3 bales are the next best. In round bales 4x4 bales are better than 5x4 bales. View Fact Sheet

 

Q. 8: How do I pick and pay a contractor?

Machinery manufacturers have put a lot of effort into producing a solid and heavy bale over recent years. So (as a generalisation) contractors with newer gear should be able to make heavier and better shaped bales than a contractor with older gear.

Most contractors charge per bale. Be very careful here. Lighter bales make more money for a contractor, while heavier bales mean less work stacking, loading and more profit for the grower. Lighter bales mean higher freight costs and a lower selling price for your hay. Talk to your contractor about this—put parameters into your baling contract.

Feed Central uses Rudweigh scales to weigh bales at the time of inspection. You can use your cattle scales or take half a dozen bales to the local weighbridge.

Bottom Line - Bale weights are a big deal. Make sure the contractor understands that you understand this!!

 

Q. 9:  What do you think, should I make hay or silage?

Hay is Feed Central’s preference. The majority of our buyer clients are geared to feeding hay. Please seek further advice from your relevant local government department or consultant before making your decision. From Feed Central’s experience the key strengths and weakness of hay and silage production are summarised below to help your decision making.

HAY Positives:

  1. Hay is efficient to transport with lower costs on a dry matter basis compared to silage and straw
  2. Hay nearly always has lower delivery cost when based on protein, metabolisable energy, neutral detergent fibre etc
  3. More contractors are equipped to make hay
  4. Baling costs per tonne are lower
  5. Hay has more uses
  6. Hay has more market outlets


HAY Negatives:

  1. Hay is more exposed to weather damage whilst curing
  2. Hay feed analysis is generally lower compared to silage
  3. Hay degrades quicker if stored outside unprotected


SILAGE Positives:

  1. Generally has higher feed analysis compared to hay
  2. Silage is less exposed to weather damage whilst curing
  3. Silage is unaffected by the type of storage and storage surface in the first 8-12 months of storage
  4. Good silage is free of weed seeds
  5. Silage is a good fodder conservation option when consumed on the same farm it is produced


SILAGE Negatives:

  1. Silage transport costs are higher on a dry matter basis compared to hay, i.e. with silage you are carting a lot of unnecessary water
  2. Silage nearly always has higher delivery cost when based on protein, metabolisable energy, neutral detergent fibre etc
  3. Baling cost per tonne can be higher
  4. Silage has less uses
  5. Silage has fewer market outlets
  6. The plastic wrap of silage tends to get damaged during handling


As a general rule, when pricing silage against hay, simply divide the price of hay by 2.5 because a ‘normal’ bale of silage is approximately between 50-75% percent water i.e. if hay costs $225 per tonne then silage price would need to be $90 per tonne to be roughly equivalent.
Regardless of the key points above, many people, including dairy farmers and extension officers, strongly advocate silage production and consumption. From a marketing perspective Feed Central says make silage with EXTREME care.

SUMMARY: As stated, the majority of Feed Central’s buying clients are geared to feeding hay.

 

Q. 10:  When is the best time to cut and bale my hay?

          Lucerne:                    Ideally 5-10% of the plants should be flowering

Cereal:                      Ideally 80-100% of the plants should be flowering

Millets (summer hay): as per cereals

Forage Sorghum:        1.2 m high and pre-head emergence / flowering

As a general rule the younger a crop is cut, the higher the feed analysis test will be, however, bulk yields peak around full flower / early milky dough seed, so a balance needs to be found. Crops cut pre- head emergences (e.g. forage sorghum) are generally very hard to dry down/cure. This is one of the major downfalls of forage sorghum as a legitimate hay crop.

 

Q. 11:  How long do I cure for and when do I start baling?

Bale when the hay is dry and NO MATTER WHAT, NEVER BEFORE. Regardless of the product you are baling, the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT procedure is baling the product at the correct moisture level.

Feed Central doesn't’t use a moisture meter until the hay is in the bale, but there are a few old fashioned, yet proven techniques, in determining when the hay is ready for baling. Generally hay must pass all of the following tests prior to baling:

  1. Simply peel back the skin at the nodes with your finger nail. If there is any moisture there at all – it is not dry. If there are no nodes e.g. lucerne, peel the skin back at several points.
  2. In cereal hay the nodes will be black and shrunken when dry. If they are bigger than the stem, – it is not dry.
  3. Grab a handful of hay from the windrow with two hands. Twist your hands in opposite direction whilst holding the hay. If the hay is dry it will break/snap in 1-2 turns. If it doesn't’t – it is not dry.
  4. Take a hammer, get some hay stems and crush some nodes between the hammer and a hard steel surface. If any moisture smear is detected – it is not dry.

An expert contractor can assist here more than Feed Central. When baling large areas you cannot always bale at the ideal moisture, therefore compromises need to be made, but it’s better to make hay too dry than too wet. Sometimes hay becomes too dry to bale, so wait for dew to bale.

Do not rush hay making. Baling hay with high moisture will:

  1. Cause hay spoilage by damaging the fresh green hay colour in the bale. In Feed Central’s system anything baled above 18% moisture will have a maximum visual grade of FC B.

Dramatically increases the potential of fire caused by self combustion, a serious and real risk.

 

Q. 12:  If I bale straw, can Feed Central sell it?

Yes, Feed Central can sell your straw! Feed Central sells more fodder types across more areas than any other company in Australia. Straw has many uses, including roughage in feedlot diets, maintenance of dry cows or as a drought supplement, garden mulch, mushroom or animal bedding. It has limited nutritional value; on a dry matter basis straw is expensive to transport because legal pay loads of straw on a truck of any size is rare.

As a general rule, straw prices may be half the price of green hay. This being said, growers must consider the costs of baling straw and expected ‘straw’ yield. A general rule is if a grain crop yields a tonne of grain, it will yield a tonne of straw.

 

Q13: How do I calculate if I am better off making hay or harvesting grain?

Almost every year hay out performs grain in gross value per ha. Yes, the work is there but so are the rewards. The rule of thumb is hay yields approximately twice that of grain. This rule is very relevant when crops have bulk but lack soil moisture to make grain—a situation experienced by many grain growers over the past several years.

To highlight hay’s potential using the rule, Feed Central has inserted a simple gross margin budget below which provides space for growers to do their own figures. The calculation compares gross margin per hectare from harvesting grain to making hay.

DETAILS
EXAMPLE GRAIN
YOUR GRAIN
EXAMPLE HAY
YOUR HAY
A = Est. yield ha x $ per tonne on farm 2 T per ha wheat
@ $200 T
Total = $400 ha
___T per ha wheat
@$____ T
Total = $____ha
4 T per ha hay
@ $150 T
Total = $600 ha
__T per ha hay
@$____ T
Total = $____ha
B = Growing costs per ha Fertiliser = $120
Chemicals = $80
Fuel = $24
Machinery = $26
Sub total = $250 ha
Fertiliser = $____
Chemicals = $____
Fuel = $____
Machinery = $____
Sub total = $____ha
Fertiliser = $120
Chemicals = $80
Fuel = $24
Machinery = $26
Sub total = $250 ha
Fertiliser = $____
Chemicals = $____
Fuel = $____
Machinery = $____
Sub total = $____ha
C = Harvest and handling $ per T on farm

Harvest @$20 T
Handling @ $5 T

Sub total= $50 T

Harvest @ $____ T
Handling @ $_____T

Sub total= $____ T

Cutting per ha = $40
Raking per ha = $20
Baling $17 / bale (606 kg bale) = 6.6 bales ha = $112
Handling @ $10 T = $40
Sub total= $212 ha
Cutting per ha = $____
Raking per ha = $____
6.6 bales ha/8x4x3 = $___
Handling @___ T = $____
Sub total= $____ ha
Gross margin
= A – (B +C)
GM = A – (B + C)
GM = $400 – (250 + 50)
Gross Margin = $100 ha
GM = A – (B + C)
GM =$___– ($ ___+$___ )
Gross Margin = $______ha
GM = A – (B + C)
GM = $600 – (250 + 212)
Gross Margin = $138
GM = A – (B + C)
GM =$___– ($ ___+$___ )
Gross Margin = $_____ha

View 'Comparing Hay and Grain' PDF

Q. 14:  Where should I store hay on my farm?

Remember, the hay stored on your farm is a valuable asset so you must protect it. Listed below are some valuable tips on where to store your hay and protecting your asset correctly.  

  1. Obviously the best place to store your hay is in a hay or machinery shed. Move machinery out of the shed (even the one with the green paint) and put the hay in there. IF YOU HAVE A SHED, PUT THE HAY IN THE SHED.

  2. Do not stack round bales on top of each other, the water just runs down one onto the other. Simply stack them sausage style, with a ute distance between rows, that way you can get between rows to slash or spray etc.

  3. Hay naturally sheds water, but when hay sits in water it naturally absorbs it; therefore damage is more likely on bottom bales than top bales. Always ensure hay stacks are not located in old floodways or low-lying areas.

  4. Fence lines can divert local water during a heavy down pour. Consider carefully where you position stacks along fence lines.

  5. Create good drainage between stacks so water does not flow off one stack and then underneath another. Grade a small diversion bank if this could be a problem.

  6. Store your hay in an area that is well drained and dry, with good all-weather access. Fodder sales often come during wet / cold periods, so good truck access can make or break a sale.

Stack large square bales high, if no shed is available cover the top bales, tarps are low cost and effective.

View Storing and Protecting Hay PDF

Q. 15:  How do I tarp large square bales?

At Feed Central we have seen both excellent and terrible hay tarping techniques. We have compiled the following to help you protect your hay investment. When done correctly TARPS WORK, and yes, Feed Central can provide you with tarps to fit your requirements.
Black plastic is not good enough. Cotton module type tarps are best. These tarps have fitted curtain edges and eyelets every 1 -2 m (ropes not included). Make your hay stack resemble a cotton module as follows:

  1. Make stack sizes of approximately one semi load – big tarps are too hard to keep on, and blow in the wind causing tarp damage and leakage.
  2. Strictly ONE BALE WIDE – do not go any wider, it is too hard to keep the tarp down and creates shallow points for water to lie and soak through the tarp.
  3. Make stacks as high as possible. 8x4x3 bales should be a minimum of four high and five high if made well. The higher the stacks the less exposure, especially to bottom bales.
  4. Remember TARPS ARE NOT WATER PROOF, only water resistant; therefore the idea is to shed water quickly. Do not allow dips or hollows in the top where water can lay.
  5. PROTECT THE TOP - Cap tarp only. When you tarp the sides, it doesn't’t allow hay to breath, so if water does get in, it can’t get out. Leaving the sides open allows moisture to get out.
  6. PROTECT THE SIDES – Hay stack bales will naturally shed any water that runs down the sides so long as you create hay stacks with straight edges - no bale should be sticking out wider than the bale above as water can run off the tarp, down the sides and then back up through the stack via a ledge created by a bale sticking out (capillary action).
  7. PROTECT THE BOTTOM – Locate stacks on gentle slopes, irrigation channel banks, gravelly or sandy ridges where water drains away quickly and does not pond around the stacks. Make sure there is good drainage on both sides.
  8. PROTECT THE TARP and THE HAY:
      Tie down as much as possible to prevent tarp flapping and rubbing.
      Use the bale strings as anchor points for the tie down ropes.
      Baling twine is satisfactory as tie down ropes.
      Use a claw hammer to help get the anchor rope under the bale string or make a “needle” from fencing wire and thread the anchor rope under the bale string.
      Use every available eyelet – the more tie down ropes the better.
      Simply half hitch the tie down rope around the anchor string to tighten.
      Re-tighten regularly (minimum monthly) – this prevents the tarp from flapping and wearing.
      If you have old plastic, lay this down on the top or edges of your canola stack before you tarp it. Canola is abrasive, you can even whipper snip the edges.

    View Tarp Order Form

PROTECT THE OPERATOR - Always use safe work practices. It is possible to roll the tarp up so that it will unroll on-top of the stack, with little effort and without the need to get on-top of the stack. If you are getting on top of a stack always use a safety cage, approved harness and safety equipment.

SUMMARY: Hay will be very sought after and valuable at some point in the future. Growers don’t leave 25 tonne grain bins untarped, so why leave 25 tonnes of hay untarped? So please, get involved and get active, look after it. Just look at the price below, so get your tarp order now on 1300 669429.


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QUALITY CONTROL

At every opportunity maximize quality, cut early maturity; cut high (beer stubby height) and if possible use a re-conditioner; minimise bleaching by creating large windrows; minimizing raking wherever possible; AND… only bale when fully cured.

GOOD STORAGE
Cows eat 365 days of the year, so please do not expect all your hay to be sold straight off the paddock. Your hay is a valuable asset and should be treated as such – prevent wastage and look after your hay!

BALE WEIGHTS
BEWARE! Most contractors generally charge per bale, so the lighter the bale the greater
the $/tonne harvest costs.
Also freight, handling, hedding and other related storage costs all dramatically increase with lighter bales.

MICE CONTROL
Cut early maturity (especially with cereals)
to minimize grain; control mice from the day your hay is made and ramp up baiting immediately mice move in.
Management is the key –
don’t let them get out of control!
Bait early, bait heavily. Do not
contaminate your hay with
bait, so apply at ground level only.