Hay & Forage Forum banner
1 - 20 of 30 Posts

· Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Northeast PA, mixed grass hay, about 28 acres (16 own, 14 neighbors)

I have more land available than I can make hay from each year.
We currently produce small squares (about 1200/year) which we use to feed our own animals (horses/goats).

The issues are:
1) It's becoming more and more difficult to get the bales into the barn due to the labor intensity of producing small squares and the lack of help
2) I've been brush hogging some adjacent neighbors' land as a favor, as I never have enough good weather days to get it all done into hay. Only cut what can be teddered, raked baled, and transported to barn, which ends up at about only 4 to 6 acres at a time.

The potential plan:
I am trying to figure out if it's possible to hay the whole lot by myself somehow, and what that would involve, and if it would make any financial sense.
Possible solution might be to switch to [mostly] round 4x4 or 4x5 baleage, wrap them individually, and store them outside and on-site. (Would not have enough barn space to store that much hay inside).

The execution:
Believe I could get the whole property done including the neighbors, as it can forgo the tedder & raking process (for 1st cut). And it wouldn't be as weather dependent of course.
Could produce MUCH more hay if I switched to baleage...at least that's what I am figuring.
(Would still produce some squares, and some dry rounds for own use.)
Equipment would need to purchased: a round baler capable of silage, and a bale wrapper.

The concern:
The advantage would be that we'd end up with ~180 round bales, but we'd need to sell them, as we have no use for most of them.
Not sure I can easily sell that many bales of baleage.

Questions:
Since these baleage bales are much heavier than dry hay bales, and not as universally palatable, my concern is that they may be difficult to sell.
May be wrong here, but from what I gather, baleage will likely travel less far than dry hay? Is this correct? Is the market for baleage smaller due to a smaller geographical area of potential customers, and not being fed to horses? Would most baleage be produced by those use use it themselves, as opposed to dry hay; i.e. is the baleage market much smaller in general?

Cheers,
 

· Registered
Joined
·
2,371 Posts
I'll start and see where it goes.

1. What do you have for equipment currently for making hay? Tractor sizes? Loader? Baler model?
2. Have you ever been involved in making baleage?

Baleage is a whole different process. It is more costly to make in some respects yet the returns will probably not be there in sales. Your right that it limits your marketing. I would search on Pennswoods and Craigslist just to get a feel what is already being offered for sale in a 50 mile radius of where live. Unless you have a buyer lined up DO NOT even attempt 4x5 baleage. You are already familiar with making dry hay and it appeals to more customers. Would considering an accumulator be advantages so you could cover more ground by yourself giving you more squares to sell? Even some sort of cheap cover so you could make more dry rounds? Not knowing your storage availability or stacking method for rounds. Just changing your stacking method from on edge to on end can change how many you can store. I stack 4 high end end by using a grapple. A grapple is much cheaper than purchasing a baler and wrapper.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'll start and see where it goes.

1. What do you have for equipment currently for making hay? Tractor sizes? Loader? Baler model?
2. Have you ever been involved in making baleage?
....
Thanks for reply.
We are ONLY making small squares right now.
Storage is a concern (I can't drive into haybarn - as it has a wooden floor), but the main issue really is I can't get it all dried and baled in the few times we have the weather decent enough.
Baling it wet will just drastically increase the amount of hay I can produce...at least that's the thinking.
It's not a matter of being able to sell the baleage for more than dry hay, it's a matter of being able to 'convert' all the hay fields into hay by myself. But like you wrote, if I can't sell the surplus it's a terrible proposition!

Equipment now is: IH656 and Kubota M7060 (both ~60HP PTO), JD1219 haybine, NH315 baler, Fella 4*tedder, JD672 rake, 2 x bale baskets.

No experience with baleage whatsoever...never even ran a round baler! :whistle:
 

· Registered
Joined
·
2,371 Posts
I drive on a wooden floor. For what you could be spending to get into making baleage then ending up with a product that may not sell I would look at trying to streamline the square bale making and maybe venture in to making dry rounds. Both of which are easier to sell. With no experience round baling I recommend not starting with baleage.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
2,371 Posts
I thought that could be a thing here but it wasn't worth it. I do try to make my baleage on the dryer side. The only consistent buyers are the amish. I tell them it is baleage on the dryer side and they take all the risks in feeding it. There are a lot of ifs when feeding it and I will not be held liable for their misuse. I would be surprised if you could even get a horse owner interested.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The Sweet Hay in round bales might be a good compromise. I will look into that further.

I drive on a wooden floor. For what you could be spending to get into making baleage then ending up with a product that may not sell I would look at trying to streamline the square bale making and maybe venture in to making dry rounds. Both of which are easier to sell. With no experience round baling I recommend not starting with baleage.
Yeah, good points. I doubt I will ever be able to streamline enough to make it all into small squares though, so a round baler was/is likely to happen anyway.
The sweet hay might be a good way to go, as having a round baler and a bale wrapper leaves many options open to what can be done, depending on the weather.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
594 Posts
I've never been able to successfully sell any baleage. I sell a couple hundred dry rounds a year and have sold maybe 10 baleage bales in the last 5 year haha. Ive found there are too many "what ifs" and logistical issues for many buyers to be interested.

Customers are worried about mold on the bales, botulism, etc.

Handling, loading, hauling, and unloading bales without compromising the plastic is a big issue. UP here if you wrap and leave in the field they probably won't be accessible in the winter.. You are also transporting a lot of extra water weight.

I would be looking for a way to streamline your small square operation and adding dry round bales.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I thought that could be a thing here but it wasn't worth it.
Thanks for your insight.
I knew it was a good idea to come in here and ask these questions before committing...


I've never been able to successfully sell any baleage. I sell a couple hundred dry rounds a year and have sold maybe 10 baleage bales in the last 5 year haha. Ive found there are too many "what ifs" and logistical issues for many buyers to be interested.

Customers are worried about mold on the bales, botulism, etc.

Handling, loading, hauling, and unloading bales without compromising the plastic is a big issue. UP here if you wrap and leave in the field they probably won't be accessible in the winter.. You are also transporting a lot of extra water weight.
Yeah, I suspected as much, and you are confirming what I surmised.


I would be looking for a way to streamline your small square operation and adding dry round bales.
Yep, coming to this conclusion slowly but surely!

Thanks all.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
558 Posts
I agree with comments above on baleage not being the best fit. We do baleage and works great for us and managing timely harvest around weather, but we use it all ourselves as cattle feed.

If streamlining your small squares doesn’t work and you have a market for dry round bales I’ll offer up another thought. If you can manage 4-6 acres at a time now doing small squares, you should be able to significantly increase the acreage within the same weather window by switching to rounds. Yes the mowing and tedding time will be longer but baling will be much faster, plus you don’t have to get them in the barn before the rain. So maybe that would let you increase acres without much investment beyond a baler. And for 180 bales/year you can get a pretty reliable used baler (with net wrap) to handle that amount.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
558 Posts
Should have added that we experienced similar results just switching from a twine round baler to net wrap. We were able to really increase the acres baled in a day as the net wrap is applied so much faster than twine. In thick hay our twine baler (4x5) was pretty much maxed out at 30 bales/hour and with net wrap and similar tonnage hay you can leisurely do 45+.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,317 Posts
Equipment now is: IH656 and Kubota M7060 (both ~60HP PTO), JD1219 haybine, NH315 baler, Fella 4*tedder, JD672 rake, 2 x bale baskets.

No experience with baleage whatsoever...never even ran a round baler! :whistle:
I don't do rounds, but I think that for round bales 4x4 you need something around 75hp and for balage even more hp.
And a baler set up for it. Perhaps this will also help you in making a decision.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,569 Posts
I can’t imagine wanting to make baleage for profit. It seems to be something people struggle to sell, not something you actively want to make to sell. (If making to feed yourself, totally different story)

Maybe you could develop some market, but diving in with the intent of readily finding customers for it at a profitable price feels like odds close to zero.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
2,371 Posts
I can’t imagine wanting to make baleage for profit. It seems to be something people struggle to sell, not something you actively want to make to sell. (If making to feed yourself, totally different story)

Maybe you could develop some market, but diving in with the intent of readily finding customers for it at a profitable price feels like odds close to zero.
Mines priced at $45-$55. I move very little. Another semi local sells for $35. Extremely wet and don't often here anything good about it.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
673 Posts
I sold 150 surplus rolls last month to a neighbouring dairy farmer. They were good quality pasture, freshly made, delivered to him 5 miles away with tractor and trailer the afternoon they were baled, unloaded by me with his telehandler, and tube wrapped the next morning by the same custom operator who rolled and wrapped my rolls. We used two trailers in tandem, carrying 28 bales in total each trip. Price was (AUD) $75 per roll plus $10 per roll delivery and he was happy. He paid the wrapping contractor directly. But this is someone who milks several hundred cows and makes, buys and uses a lot of silage and baleage.

Roger
 

· Junior Member
Joined
·
217 Posts
I have had success moving some baleage when it was a poor hay crop year in my area. By mid-winter, beef guys are looking for anything beside mud and snowballs to feed to their cows.

This past year was a decent hay year in my area so not getting much traction on bales I did make this past year.

I wish there was a more consistent market for baleage around me. Then again, there are a lot of things about the hay making business that I wish were different.
 

· Senior Member
Joined
·
5,757 Posts
Don’t forget once you export hay off that land regularly you need to buy fertilizer. Even just the potash cost to replace what is removed is substantial and many beginning hay farmers forget that.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
173 Posts
I have posted earlier about my experience with wrapping dry hay and while I was disappointed with the surface mold on some of my earlier bales I fed, some of the bales I am feeding now have less mold. Not sure why. Regardless, the amount of good dry hay in a wrapped bale with or without surface mold is still better than non-wrapped from what I can tell now. I spent about $4,600 on individual wrapper and boxes of wrap for 500 bales. That is far less than building a barn so that would help you lower costs. I wrapped 400 bales this year, all 1st cutting. I too have a dwindling manual labor supply and knew it was coming as my son ran off to college.

I marked up my wrapped bales by $5 and that is probably too cheap but I sold 40 and 50 bales to two new customers (both cattle guys) and they were happy. I bought a bale grabber but if you wrap and leave sit where you dump from the wrapper you don't have to move it until sold. Sticking a hay spear in the bale would produce holes but you could either tape them or feed them fast. Dry hay would not get ruined by 3 holes in the plastic.

So, rather than looking at baleage maybe dry hay wrapped would be a way for you to go to keep costs down and lower labor effort? Looking at your equipment list though, you are a little light on the tractor PTO for some 4x5 balers. As stated above, go with netwrap. I think a 4x4 baler is limited for selling hay but it would fit your tractors. We use a 120 hp with our round baler (JD 467 Netwrap) and works out good, especially on hills. We round bale when we have rain coming or on most of the first cuttings. Sometimes we have poor quality hay due to endless rounds of rains so we round bale those too. Round baling is very fast. My son has run a bale every 2 minutes if raked heavy. I can say that the best thing we ever did was buy a good round baler. Aside from baling our own fields, we custom bale for others. Custom round baling is nice, low stress and good money for hours you do it. You drive in and 1-2 hours later the entire field is done. No picking up bales by hand. You can come back and move rounds over the weekend. People will find you to do rounds bales for them in my opinion. You can take an individual wrapper to their farm and wrap their hay for additional fee as additional service that separates you from other custom balers. We did that this year.

For goat/sheep/horse people, you can cut a hole on each flat side and leave the wrap on it. Protects from rain on top since it takes along time for them to eat the bale.

Ultimately, you are looking at a sizeable investment to switch to round bales. Good Baler at $10k and wrapper at $5k plus the need for a bigger tractor. One last option, is to hire a custom round bale guy when you see rain coming or you want to see if you can sell some of this year bales before buying equipment. Since you are trying to be a one man operation, this could be a good approach. You won't make much this year but would allow you to build up customers before spending the bucks on more equipment. Like a test marketing exercise. I know everyone likes to be sold out before January, but I like selling hay in March and April as it commands the highest prices.

I am going to try baleage this year for myself and one of my cattle customers, so I have it lined up. I understand that botulism and mold is a potential problem which causes horse people to shy away. However, I know of at least one horse guy who feeds a ton of it to racehorses without issue. Most horse people don't have tractors to move the round bales aand a wet bale is even heavier so I think horse market is very tough on round bales.

This is just my free advice so good luck on whatever you decide. There a lot of good ideas on this forum so kudos for dreaming. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: narvik
1 - 20 of 30 Posts
Top