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Making a Living Baling Hay


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#41 Troy Farmer

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 09:50 AM

Don't forget the four letter word that everyone seems to run from.  WORK.  And a lot of it.


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#42 JD3430

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 10:35 AM

Thanks for all the help. It seems there is a lot less money made in hay than numbers show to be. Guess I will re-analyze my future plans on this land. Thanks again

I had same visions as you. The execution of the objectives a little different on my end. I started 7-8 years ago. I did not buy a farm and I didn’t inherit any type of land or machinery. I started from scratch 100% and I farm other peoples property. Much to the annoyance of others, I kept upgrading from relics, to semi-relics, to currently available equipment all the while paying off pieces and taking a low amount of salary. 
 

What I would suggest more than anything is start small AND have a side gig with a “guaranteed” income. That’s what I do. I have steady mowing income, somewhat steady construction income and hay income. 
Here’s what MY observations have been over a relatively short 7 year “not-a-real-farmer” farming career:
1. expenses are much greater than I anticipated. I have an average of $7,000/yr in broken or damaged equipment beyond my repair capability. Stuff breaks more than you think. 

2. fuel expenses much greater than anticipated. Between farming 400 acres, driving 3 diesel trucks and the mowing I do, I’m spending ~$12,000 on fuel annually. 

3. accounts receivable slow to arrive. Farming is risky business. I let an account get ahead of me, owner declared bankruptcy and stuffed me for $6,500. 

4. weather plays a huge role in when you will farm. You are not in control. You WILL work saturdays and Sundays.  You WILL miss your kids sports, concerts, etc. It will affect your family life to some extent. You WILL get calls for hay on weekends. You will ruin all your work clothing.  :lol: And most of all, you WILL be told “you can’t do this” by many. Some will be encouraging, but many will tell you that you bought the wrong tractor, wrong truck, wrong fertilizer, etc. You have to stay encouraged and focused. You have to prepare for change to the extent possible. Even elections of socialists.  ;) 
 

Those are my experiences, yours will vary. I have talked to more than my comfortable share of guys who were going to make a million baling hay. They got out over their skis too far and sold out. 
Slow, steady growth. Manageable debt. Realistic expectations. 7 days a week. 


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#43 Hayman1

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 11:17 AM

I had same visions as you. The execution of the objectives a little different on my end. I started 7-8 years ago. I did not buy a farm and I didn’t inherit any type of land or machinery. I started from scratch 100% and I farm other peoples property. Much to the annoyance of others, I kept upgrading from relics, to semi-relics, to currently available equipment all the while paying off pieces and taking a low amount of salary. 
 

What I would suggest more than anything is start small AND have a side gig with a “guaranteed” income. That’s what I do. I have steady mowing income, somewhat steady construction income and hay income. 
Here’s what MY observations have been over a relatively short 7 year “not-a-real-farmer” farming career:
1. expenses are much greater than I anticipated. I have an average of $7,000/yr in broken or damaged equipment beyond my repair capability. Stuff breaks more than you think. 

2. fuel expenses much greater than anticipated. Between farming 400 acres, driving 3 diesel trucks and the mowing I do, I’m spending ~$12,000 on fuel annually. 

3. accounts receivable slow to arrive. Farming is risky business. I let an account get ahead of me, owner declared bankruptcy and stuffed me for $6,500. 

4. weather plays a huge role in when you will farm. You are not in control. You WILL work saturdays and Sundays.  You WILL miss your kids sports, concerts, etc. It will affect your family life to some extent. You WILL get calls for hay on weekends. You will ruin all your work clothing.  :lol: And most of all, you WILL be told “you can’t do this” by many. Some will be encouraging, but many will tell you that you bought the wrong tractor, wrong truck, wrong fertilizer, etc. You have to stay encouraged and focused. You have to prepare for change to the extent possible. Even elections of socialists.  ;) 
 

Those are my experiences, yours will vary. I have talked to more than my comfortable share of guys who were going to make a million baling hay. They got out over their skis too far and sold out. 
Slow, steady growth. Manageable debt. Realistic expectations. 7 days a week. 

Go get em JD.  Sounds like a lot of pearls in there


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#44 Ray 54

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 03:50 PM

The dollars and cents can budgeted with some hard digging. Taking the optimistic and pessimistic views and hoping reality is in the middle.

 

But the thing people without ag background miss is the timing that JD pointed out. My wife of 40+ years still wants me to commit to things 6 months in the future, I keep saying I will tell you a few days before. Many things need doing on God's schedule not man's. You can do a bit to pick the day to a degree but things still happen that just happen. So if your not ready for that don't even think you can make your living from hay.    


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#45 stack em up

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 05:36 PM

I had same visions as you. The execution of the objectives a little different on my end. I started 7-8 years ago. I did not buy a farm and I didn’t inherit any type of land or machinery. I started from scratch 100% and I farm other peoples property. Much to the annoyance of others, I kept upgrading from relics, to semi-relics, to currently available equipment all the while paying off pieces and taking a low amount of salary. 
 
What I would suggest more than anything is start small AND have a side gig with a “guaranteed” income. That’s what I do. I have steady mowing income, somewhat steady construction income and hay income. 
Here’s what MY observations have been over a relatively short 7 year “not-a-real-farmer” farming career:
1. expenses are much greater than I anticipated. I have an average of $7,000/yr in broken or damaged equipment beyond my repair capability. Stuff breaks more than you think. 
2. fuel expenses much greater than anticipated. Between farming 400 acres, driving 3 diesel trucks and the mowing I do, I’m spending ~$12,000 on fuel annually. 
3. accounts receivable slow to arrive. Farming is risky business. I let an account get ahead of me, owner declared bankruptcy and stuffed me for $6,500. 
4. weather plays a huge role in when you will farm. You are not in control. You WILL work saturdays and Sundays.  You WILL miss your kids sports, concerts, etc. It will affect your family life to some extent. You WILL get calls for hay on weekends. You will ruin all your work clothing.  :lol: And most of all, you WILL be told “you can’t do this” by many. Some will be encouraging, but many will tell you that you bought the wrong tractor, wrong truck, wrong fertilizer, etc. You have to stay encouraged and focused. You have to prepare for change to the extent possible. Even elections of socialists.  ;) 
 
Those are my experiences, yours will vary. I have talked to more than my comfortable share of guys who were going to make a million baling hay. They got out over their skis too far and sold out. 
Slow, steady growth. Manageable debt. Realistic expectations. 7 days a week.


How much rent do you pay? That line item (land) is gonna be probably numero uno on most people’s balance sheets. Even if you own it, still have opportunity value.
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#46 ttazzman

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 08:00 PM

My 2 cents:

I’m not a big fan of the “spend 200k plus to start a business” model.

If you want to find out if you can bale hay as a full time gig, why not spend $10k +/- on used or borrowed equipment and try baling say 10-20 acres. You’ll answer a lot of questions for yourself and limit your $$ risk. What if you decide you don’t really like making hay? OR you could catch the hay bug and keep growing.

Just sayin a lot of hay has been made without half the equipment on your list. I’d start barebones and if you decide to continue on, reinvest into the business upgrading your equipment as you go.

You have the land. That’s a big hurdle. But just bc you don’t have a land payment doesn’t mean that you need an equipment payment.

I 100% agree......in our area of the country you can get small square bales custom made for ~2$ a bale.....cut to laying in the field.....on small farms.....probably get it for $1.5 a bale on a large contract .......something to consider ......



#47 ttazzman

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 08:07 PM

I had same visions as you. The execution of the objectives a little different on my end. I started 7-8 years ago. I did not buy a farm and I didn’t inherit any type of land or machinery. I started from scratch 100% and I farm other peoples property. Much to the annoyance of others, I kept upgrading from relics, to semi-relics, to currently available equipment all the while paying off pieces and taking a low amount of salary. 
 

What I would suggest more than anything is start small AND have a side gig with a “guaranteed” income. That’s what I do. I have steady mowing income, somewhat steady construction income and hay income. 
Here’s what MY observations have been over a relatively short 7 year “not-a-real-farmer” farming career:
1. expenses are much greater than I anticipated. I have an average of $7,000/yr in broken or damaged equipment beyond my repair capability. Stuff breaks more than you think. 

2. fuel expenses much greater than anticipated. Between farming 400 acres, driving 3 diesel trucks and the mowing I do, I’m spending ~$12,000 on fuel annually. 

3. accounts receivable slow to arrive. Farming is risky business. I let an account get ahead of me, owner declared bankruptcy and stuffed me for $6,500. 

4. weather plays a huge role in when you will farm. You are not in control. You WILL work saturdays and Sundays.  You WILL miss your kids sports, concerts, etc. It will affect your family life to some extent. You WILL get calls for hay on weekends. You will ruin all your work clothing.  :lol: And most of all, you WILL be told “you can’t do this” by many. Some will be encouraging, but many will tell you that you bought the wrong tractor, wrong truck, wrong fertilizer, etc. You have to stay encouraged and focused. You have to prepare for change to the extent possible. Even elections of socialists.  ;) 
 

Those are my experiences, yours will vary. I have talked to more than my comfortable share of guys who were going to make a million baling hay. They got out over their skis too far and sold out. 
Slow, steady growth. Manageable debt. Realistic expectations. 7 days a week. 

 

 

excellent write up.........then when its all said n done whatcha gona do if you get sick or hurt ...


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#48 JD3430

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Posted 30 October 2020 - 08:31 PM

excellent write up.........then when its all said n done whatcha gona do if you get sick or hurt ...

Could be said for any self employment situation. I also own a construction company. It can’t operate without me working, but it’s more possible than with farming. It’s almost like farming is for someone who wants every possible challenge thrown at them for pretty meager wages and incalculable risks. 
My mom, God rest her soul always told me, “you always loved a challenge”. 


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#49 Ox76

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Posted 31 October 2020 - 08:37 AM

Farming for sure doesn't make any sense to actively pursue as a business venture.  But some of us are born with the bug that makes us pursue it even though there's many easier and cheaper ways to try to make money.


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#50 siscofarms

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Posted 31 October 2020 - 05:10 PM

Never forget ,,, In a good yielding hay year , guess what , everyones hay did good , and for what you have priced your hay , old Joe down the road is going to sell it cheaper and get your customers unless you come down in your price . It NEVER fails . The people hobby farming dont care about the $ . That will hurt you more than the weather or weeds . 90% of the people buying hay are going to look at price first . You may have to take a hit the first year to get your quality of product in the minds of people , but even at that , unless your selling to race horses , the price of old Joe down the road will get ya every time .


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#51 JD3430

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Posted 31 October 2020 - 07:18 PM

Never forget ,,, In a good yielding hay year , guess what , everyones hay did good , and for what you have priced your hay , old Joe down the road is going to sell it cheaper and get your customers unless you come down in your price . It NEVER fails . The people hobby farming dont care about the $ . That will hurt you more than the weather or weeds . 90% of the people buying hay are going to look at price first . You may have to take a hit the first year to get your quality of product in the minds of people , but even at that , unless your selling to race horses , the price of old Joe down the road will get ya every time .

Yep. Most, not all, Horse people have never believed the hay farmer is entitled to a nickel in profit. So long as you have 2-3 guys in the area willing to sell $3/bale, the people who own easy keeper yard ornament horses will flock to them. You need to be in an area where there’s a demand for high quality hay and a willingness to pay $10/bale. 

Up until a few years ago, we had a guy who would pull a full wagon of hay up & down the horse farm roads and sell for $3 off the wagon. 
I sell 90% of my hay to the mulch hay market. I ran into one of my fellow farmers in my area there while we were getting our trucks unloaded. We were complaining that prices had dropped to $110/ton for mulch because of Covid. :rolleyes: He told me he was getting $90/ton 35 years ago!!!!

Now I don’t know about you, but not many products have increased only 20% in the last 35 years. 
Tractors? Mowers? Trucks? Hay tools? Houses? Food? Fuel? NOPE. 

 

Hay does not, and seemingly never will keep up with increasing prices of literally everything else
 


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#52 IH 1586

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 06:02 AM

I do make a living making hay and can only wish I could even come close to the price that gets mentioned on here. For my area I'm selling 1st for $3.50 and 2nd for $4.50 out of the barn $.50 increase this year. Out of the field is 1st $2.50($0.05 increase from last year) 2nd $3.00. Even when I had a good year and was shipping hay it was still $4.50. 

 

We have a very loyal customer base and at 15,000 + bales a year still can't get any volume in the barn to sell during winter. We have decided a couple more years of improving fields and were doing a $.25 across the board. If the quality is there customers will pay. We utilize 3 price points: Field pick up, prepay and stored, winter sales.


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#53 JD3430

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 07:43 AM

I do make a living making hay and can only wish I could even come close to the price that gets mentioned on here. For my area I'm selling 1st for $3.50 and 2nd for $4.50 out of the barn $.50 increase this year. Out of the field is 1st $2.50($0.05 increase from last year) 2nd $3.00. Even when I had a good year and was shipping hay it was still $4.50. 

 

We have a very loyal customer base and at 15,000 + bales a year still can't get any volume in the barn to sell during winter. We have decided a couple more years of improving fields and were doing a $.25 across the board. If the quality is there customers will pay. We utilize 3 price points: Field pick up, prepay and stored, winter sales.

Wow, thats incredible. What do your bales weigh? 
I think you deserve more than that for your hard work, but I know you cant do much if everyone is selling at same price


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#54 ttazzman

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 08:08 PM

Could be said for any self employment situation. I also own a construction company. It can’t operate without me working, but it’s more possible than with farming. It’s almost like farming is for someone who wants every possible challenge thrown at them for pretty meager wages and incalculable risks. 
My mom, God rest her soul always told me, “you always loved a challenge”. 

...did construction and engineering all my working life as a owner......retired to play farming.....the one thing about farming is it can be debt intensive and many things cant wait even a week......so that in itself magnifies the self labor issues ...so its something to keep in mind when taking those "incalculable risks" .......i have very strong feelings about Debt risks worthy of a full discussion in itself ......we must have had similar Moms 


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#55 IH 1586

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 06:45 AM

Wow, thats incredible. What do your bales weigh? 
I think you deserve more than that for your hard work, but I know you cant do much if everyone is selling at same price

 

35-45 lbs. 4 years ago when we had surplus put 2nd at $5/bale. If somebody called they would just hang up upon hearing the price. If they came to look at them they became customers. The comments we get is how big the bales are, how much hay is in them. Had customer last year take my bales to knock down the price of another seller when I ran out.

 

For 4x5 rounds 1st are $55. Only made 20 of them as that size not in much demand. we raised the price of the 4x4 to $40 and that's pushing it with our price points. A 4x4 represents approx. 5% savings over squares and a 4x5 approx 10% savings over squares. Hard to compete when you can find hay on craigslist for $25/bale


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#56 broadriverhay

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 08:55 AM

@IH1586 . I don't look at other so called farmers prices. The guys selling cheap around here don't lime , fertilize or control weeds. If they want to sell hay and loose money that's up to them. You can't make money at $3.50 - $4.50 a bale and do it right, at least not down here. You can't store it until the hard Winter hits and then get a better price?  If you go up on your price and sell quality you would have a barn full going into the Winter . I have a solid customer base and sell hay year round. I store hay for the customer all year. Most of my customers don't have enough storage for a years supply so most get hay about every 6-12 weeks. That process has been successful for me. I don't jack the price around either . I get $6 a bale in the barn year round. The first thing I do when someone calls is talk quality and make sure they understand what they are getting. I will also give new customers 10 bales to try if needed just so they can see the difference in quality , size and weight. Good luck and don't sell your self short!!


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#57 slowzuki

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 09:10 AM

I’ll add to JD’s, a big cost in money and time for me is keeping a truck and trailer running, plated and insured for deliveries.  I can’t sell hay here without delivering unfortunately.

 

Selling from storage has its own set of problems but can cut down on capital if your fields are all nearby.

 

The time commitment issues causes lots of conflict with family too, don’t underestimate the damage to relationships if your spouse/kids aren’t very independent.


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#58 IH 1586

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 10:13 AM

@IH1586 . I don't look at other so called farmers prices. The guys selling cheap around here don't lime , fertilize or control weeds. If they want to sell hay and loose money that's up to them. You can't make money at $3.50 - $4.50 a bale and do it right, at least not down here. You can't store it until the hard Winter hits and then get a better price?  If you go up on your price and sell quality you would have a barn full going into the Winter . I have a solid customer base and sell hay year round. I store hay for the customer all year. Most of my customers don't have enough storage for a years supply so most get hay about every 6-12 weeks. That process has been successful for me. I don't jack the price around either . I get $6 a bale in the barn year round. The first thing I do when someone calls is talk quality and make sure they understand what they are getting. I will also give new customers 10 bales to try if needed just so they can see the difference in quality , size and weight. Good luck and don't sell your self short!!

 

 

Sure sounds easy. But the experience with $5 tells the story in this area. I could jack the price to $6 and I would have a barn full of hay and would still have it going into the following year. Just to much hay in this area and quality means nothing to most people here all they look at is $$. I will bet when we raise prices in the next couple of years by just $.25 we will lose a quarter of our regular customers, but some will come back when they realize what's out there.

 

I could raise the price to $6 then would have quantity to ship out for $4.50 and that's if he would pay that, last time he came it was $4. What's the difference?


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#59 JD3430

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 10:25 AM

Sure sounds easy. But the experience with $5 tells the story in this area. I could jack the price to $6 and I would have a barn full of hay and would still have it going into the following year. Just to much hay in this area and quality means nothing to most people here all they look at is $$. I will bet when we raise prices in the next couple of years by just $.25 we will lose a quarter of our regular customers, but some will come back when they realize what's out there.

 

I could raise the price to $6 then would have quantity to ship out for $4.50 and that's if he would pay that, last time he came it was $4. What's the difference?

I almost wonder if you’d be better off selling out of the field to a broker down in my area?

7 years ago, I sold hay for $3/bale, he picked them up and sold them from his barn. I had 0 indoor storage, so it made sense for me. 
Have you explored that avenue? You might get $4 now. That was a while ago



#60 IH 1586

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 10:30 AM

I almost wonder if you’d be better off selling out of the field to a broker down in my area?

7 years ago, I sold hay for $3/bale, he picked them up and sold them from his barn. I had 0 indoor storage, so it made sense for me. 
Have you explored that avenue? You might get $4 now. That was a while ago

 

All the brokers that inquire do so during the off months and none have expressed interest purchasing out of field. The other thing we won't do is leave our loyal base without hay in search of a few more dollars. It will happen because of yield increase/locals not wanting to pay the increase in price.


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