Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How much is a bale of hay worth?

As costs have risen for fertilizer, fuel, twine, and net wrap, many producers are asking, “How much is it costing me to wrap a bale of hay this year?” or “How much should I charge when I sell a large round bale of hay?”

To answer these questions, let’s first look at the fertilizer costs in a bale of hay. Fertilizer value of nutrients contained in a bale of hay should be considered when pricing hay to sell or determining costs per bale or per acre. The large price increases in commercial fertilizer should be offset by an increase in hay prices.

Another thing to remember is not all hay is created equal when it comes to the quantity of nutrients per ton or bale of dry matter. Hay differs in nutrient content due to species, yield, growing conditions including soil fertility, haying conditions, and maturity when cut. A large round bale of hay that has been fertilized, cut and baled at the correct stage of maturity is worth much more than hay cut after it has matured and has low digestibility. According to research data for our Forage Systems Research Center in Linneus, MO, a 1,200 pound round bale of grass hay removes $29.22 worth of nutrients from your hay field that you will have to replace. This is based on current nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium prices. Another way to look at it, you have removed 50-70 pounds of N, P, & K per large bale from your field!

Another cost increase has been the fuel. As farm diesel approaches $3.45 per gallon, how does that affect the price of a large round bale of hay? The following rates are average costs from custom operators in the state of Missouri.

Round Bale (net) 11.50
Wheel Rake 2.25
Rotary (disc) mower 5.45
Subtotal $19.20

In summary, you must look at increased forage machinery costs including fuel, and more fertilizer costs due to nutrients being removed when harvesting the hay. This amounts to a little over $48.00 of costs per 1200 #large round bale of grass hay. Yes, it is going to be more expensive to bale hay or buy hay this year due to increased fertilizer and machinery costs.
(By John Hobbs, MU Ag and Rural Development Specialist)

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