Hey all, looking for some seasoned, objective advice on what direction to head on a farm. My dad has about 85 acres currently in row crop that he rents out. I run about 9 head of cattle on pasture, and do a few acres of small squares on the headlands. I got my agronomy degree, ended up in a totally different field, and feel the draw to get into farming on the side of my current full time job. I'm trying to come up with a plan that will give me my fix, put a few bucks in my pocket, yet not eat up all my spare time (been down that road before with another business, and have 3 kids). The current renters are aware I am wanting to do something, and have been very helpful. I've penciled out row crop, but that doesn't leave me much to do besides planting due to equipment cost. I've always had an interest in hay, part for doing something different here where the majority of ground is row crop, and partly because I'd like to feed my own cows, and be more in control of what I'm growing and selling. My big sticking points seem to be time involved (my job schedule is pretty flexible), storage, and if the market is present. I'm currently setup with a IH 656D, a 350 9' sickle bar mower, a NH super 68 baler and a NH 56 rake. I have limited storage in a barn at my dad's, but will be putting up a 36x45 this year. I'll list a few ideas here, let me know what you all think.
1.) Continue adding 10-15 acres of hay and do some small squares, sell them off (I figure average 120 bales/acre @ $5/bale for alalfa/grass mix), buy the big rounds for my cows and be content
2.) Go bigger, put the whole 85 in hay (likely an alfalfa mix), upgrade to a cabbed tractor, mower conditioner, and newer small square baler. Storage seems to be the issue here, along with the time/labor of that many small squares for a part time gig
3.) Go bigger, put all 85 in hay, but buy a 4x4 or 4x5 round baler and individual bale wrapper, upgrade to a mower conditioner or disc mower, and wheel rake. My thought here is I can market the smaller bales 4' bales to people like me running a few cows or horses. Easier to move with smaller tractor and to load. My thought on the bale wrapper is that I could bale wetter hay (if needed), it would store better outside (solving my indoor storage issue), I could feed my own small herd, and the hay would store better (thus be more appealing) to customers. My dad seems to like this best for time involved and in general.
4.) Get out all together, it's not worth the time, leave it to full timers
I do believe there would be a shot at some NRCS EQUIP funds for seeding row crop ground to forages. I feel like I can sell small squares fairly easy in my area (close to Omaha), but is there a market for 4' bales??? I'm not finding a lot on craigslist/FB marketplace. I figured 3 tons/acre with 700 lb bales, selling in the $50-$60 range (wrapped). My numbers pencil out for idea 3, as long as I had the market for that....
Also, any insight on beginning farmer micro loans (for equipment and my barn) would be appreciated.
Looking forward to your thoughts, and thanks for your time.