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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Howdy! This is my first post. I will start with an introduction:

I only have 7 acres, but it's all flat and field. I live in SW Washington state. I have been a tractor guy for some time, we are in a pulling club and we pull garden tractors. I built a couple old cub cadets with v twins and it's a lot of fun. My chore tractor is a 1964 case 431 diesel and she is a hard working machine. I have a two bottom plow, a disc, brush hog and back blade for it.

So....I've never grown hay, but I'm tired of buying it for the horse so I want to try my hand at growing it. My property is basically river bottom, I've never found as much as a pebble in the ground. Great garden dirt, so figure it should grow hay no problem in our loamy soil.

My idea is to grow Timothy and alfalfa together. I want about 75 Timothy to 25 percent alfalfa. I feel this would be a good mix for horse hay.

So where can I buy seed? At our feed store they just sell a pasture mix, and it's ridiculously expensive. Looking to plant a few acres worth the first time.

So my plan is to disc the heck out of the field and spread seed, then roll it to push the seed down. If I plant now in the rainy season I believe I can get away without water.

What do you guys think? Is this a good idea or another one of my wannabe farmer pipe dreams? Any and all advice is welcome, I'm brand new to this.

Thanks and I look forward to being part of this group!
 

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Depends if you want to do it because you love making hay, or you want a cheaper source of hay for your horse. If you want a cheaper source, then buying hay as you already are is the cheapest. Yes, seed is very expensive.

There's a lot of stress that goes into making hay. Equipment breakdowns, WEATHER, not knowing what you're doing....it looks really glamorous from the road, which is why so many people think they can do it too. Not trying to discourage, just giving an honest appraisal. There is a long learning curve and it will be difficult and expensive.
 

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agree with hayjosh.....but if you insist...#1 get a soil test with recomendations......a bit of research will reveal seed suppliers you can use in your area.....tons of things to learn.....one thing you mention is a mix of timothy and alfalfa...but those plants are hugely different in maturity timing and regrowth....so it would end up 3-4 cuttings of alfalfa OR 1 or possibly 2 cuttings of timothy yearly.......a better mix would be alfalfa and brome or orchard grass
 

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I agree with Hayjosh & ttazzman, do it ONLY if you enjoy it! With a small parcel and the weather we have you'll find yourself buying hay anyway if you want quality, not every year, but often enough not to make it economically viable. If you are somewhere where weather is not a concern then it may work.
 

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Are you around mossy rock? Either plant straight alfalfa or grass. It’s grass mostly out there because it rains so much that it’s hard to get alfalfa dried. A lot of baleage made there. Seed is expensive but for 7 acres you can order it online or go to a local seed coop. I’d disk then harrow then broadcast and pack.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Are you around mossy rock? Either plant straight alfalfa or grass. It’s grass mostly out there because it rains so much that it’s hard to get alfalfa dried. A lot of baleage made there. Seed is expensive but for 7 acres you can order it online or go to a local seed coop. I’d disk then harrow then broadcast and pack.
Closer to castle rock. Pleasant hill area. Thanks for the tip!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks all for the replies. I definitely am doing it for fun as much as the return. Any chance I get to work my tractor I'm all over it! Just did fuel filters tonight. Gonna hog and disc tomorrow I'm thinking. So it's looking like maybe no alfalfa after all, I have much to learn.
 

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Howdy! This is my first post. I will start with an introduction:

I only have 7 acres, but it's all flat and field. I live in SW Washington state. I have been a tractor guy for some time, we are in a pulling club and we pull garden tractors. I built a couple old cub cadets with v twins and it's a lot of fun. My chore tractor is a 1964 case 431 diesel and she is a hard working machine. I have a two bottom plow, a disc, brush hog and back blade for it.

So....I've never grown hay, but I'm tired of buying it for the horse so I want to try my hand at growing it. My property is basically river bottom, I've never found as much as a pebble in the ground. Great garden dirt, so figure it should grow hay no problem in our loamy soil.

My idea is to grow Timothy and alfalfa together. I want about 75 Timothy to 25 percent alfalfa. I feel this would be a good mix for horse hay.

So where can I buy seed? At our feed store they just sell a pasture mix, and it's ridiculously expensive. Looking to plant a few acres worth the first time.

So my plan is to disc the heck out of the field and spread seed, then roll it to push the seed down. If I plant now in the rainy season I believe I can get away without water.

What do you guys think? Is this a good idea or another one of my wannabe farmer pipe dreams? Any and all advice is welcome, I'm brand new to this.

Thanks and I look forward to being part of this group!
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making hay sounds pretty romantic. then the reality of it all sets in. weather, and customers. if you are growing hay for yourself, you are half way there. i'm in sw wa as well. where abouts are you? good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well I got it hogged and disced up, well almost I started drowning in the rain haha. I'll get it finished tomorrow and am looking for a 3 point spring tooth harrow. I figure disc again early spring, harrow and plant. Decided against alfalfa after reading your replies and studying more on it. I think Timothy will be the one. Looking for a sickle bar mower too, I couldn't imagine using my brush hog to cut it, would be too small and beat to death. Having fun so far!
 

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Look around on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for a sickle mower or a haybine. Get a good small square baler preferably a NH because they have some of the best older small square balers. Also you’ll need a rake at the minimum and maybe a Tedder. You may have to drive some ways to get the right deal because everything on the west coast is overpriced and all rusty and corroded from high moisture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Look around on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for a sickle mower or a haybine. Get a good small square baler preferably a NH because they have some of the best older small square balers. Also you’ll need a rake at the minimum and maybe a Tedder. You may have to drive some ways to get the right deal because everything on the west coast is overpriced and all rusty and corroded from high moisture.
Oh yes rusty around here for sure. I've got lots of family in eastern Washington, and I will keep an eye out over there. Now I'm wondering if I should plant red clover with the Timothy?
 

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you should be able to get a two banger 3 pt tedder for around 500-800, a NH 256 rake for under 1,000, a NH 273 baler for 1000-1500 and something like a NH 488 haybine (not sure what you have ot pay for that. You probably can get a small haybine cheaper than a good NH 451 sickle. Good luck, look at tractorhouse for ballpark prices.
 
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Learn about the equipment, how it functions and what critical parts to inspect before you go shopping. It will save you a TON in money! I just went through this myself in Northern IL. Prices are RIDICULOUS!! A dealer near me has a lot of equipment, and after doing a lot of online shopping, know why they have a lot of equipment, they want too much! For example, they have a john Deere 660 rake, Beat to crap, $1995. I found an International Harvester 35 for $750, needed wheel bearings, and one ratchet wasn't working, talked him down to $650 and he delivered. One thing I should have done would be to trailer it home instead. The trip destroyed the left hubs and axle. BUT, now the rake is 100% serviceable, mechanically like new, and still paid less than the one on the dealer in rough shape. Lesson learned on that one.

Baler, I searched Craigslist after looking at what dealers have and what was posted in the tractor ad sites. On dealers lot near me, balers started $3,000, and beat to crap, the closest I found to a decent machine was $7,000. I found a farmer who retired selling a NH 273 for $1200. Visually it looks worn, but mechanically 100% sound, well maintained. He had just finished baling 3 weeks prior and still had a bale and a half in it. He had everything 2 weeks prior and I could have bought it al from him had I looked sooner.

Mower was the most difficult to find. There was a guy on Craigslist with 2 NH 488 balers for $2000 bundle. He never got back to me, may have already sold them, don't know, but again, what ever was on dealers lots was overpriced junk. A john Deere 1209 was listed for $3,000, same dealer as before, like I said a lot of equipment listed, way over priced. I searched through Tractorhouse and Machinepete and found another John Deere 1209 that looked to be in much much better shape at a JD dealer 2 hours south of me. Since pictures can't tell the full picture I drove down and looked at it. They were asking $1650 for it, and if it were the above dealer, it would be listed at 4-5K in the condition it is in, so I bought it. I rented a trailer and brought it home. As it sits, it does need new sections, but I knew that would be something I would do no matter what I bought. It needed a new bearing on the reel for one of the bars, and they threw one in, so the only thing I really need to do with it is go over everything, make sure its all lubed, replace one chain because of slop, and put new teeth on it. So far I have not found anything on it that needs immediate attention, all bearings are sound, sprockets in good condition, belts good condition and most important rollers and wobble box are in good condition as those are the two most expensive items to replace.

Guys on this site are VERY helpful with answering questions on equipment, and everything else in general, you can gain a lot of knowledge from them, I sure did. When I started out I was looking at probably spending $15,000 on implements, and after asking questions, I spent less than $5,000 on the three important items. I'm buying a new Kubota to pull it ll, but that is not part of the overall plan, just something I have been wanting for a while now. A tractor with a cab and heat in the winter. My B2410 is a great little tractor, but I'm done freezing my youknowwhats clearing snow and sweating my other youknowwhat in the summer.
 

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If you are interested, I will have my 315 for sale as of Jan 1, for tax reasons. Good shape and works well. Been using it on 20-25 acres for the last 20-25 years.
If you are interested, I will have my 315 for sale as of Jan 1, for tax reasons. Good shape and works well. Been using it on 20-25 acres for the last 20-25 years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
After some heavy research, I have decided on orchard grass. It will grow better here than Timothy and should be just as good for the horses to eat. Still needing some implements but I will get there hopefully before spring.
 

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Does anyone in your area put up custom hay? I dunno 7 acres to buy all the equipment seems kinda rough. Even if you could find a guy to swath it and maybe haul it then you could just rake and bale.

Orchard grass seed should be like $3 to $4 a pound and you only need to plant 15 pounds to the acre for a full stand. For seven acres broadcast I’d probably get 3 bags so you can go at 20lbs to the acre. You can buy it online from greatbasinseed.com. If you think $500 or so for the seed is expensive wait until you see your fertilizer expense. Orchard grass should have 150 units N per acre and depending on where you get it it’s going to be around $1 a unit. Plus you need to have a way to apply it like a pto spreader or through a sprayer. You will also need to spray the field likely at least once with 24d and dicamba to get rid of broadleaf weeds which is another expense. The chem isn’t too bad but you’ll need at least a good atv sprayer to apply it.

If I could give you one piece of advice it’s if at all possible find someone who can do some custom work for you the first couple of years. If you try to do it all yourself with old equipment and not much experience you will be spending more time wrenching and troubleshooting than making hay. Hopefully there’s someone who can help you a bit - just understanding what dry hay feels like takes time and experience.
 

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If you have experience with making a decent pasture, think of hay making as a step up and above. Instead of the animals keeping it short and fertilized by grazing, you are doing that work instead. I am switching 3 acres of grazed pasture into hay. I already mow it at least twice a month where it wasn't grazed. Already fertilize it with Pasture Pro. So now instead of mowing it with a rough cut and leaving the clippings, I will be mowing it 2-3 times a year, raking and baling. Instead of relying on the basic Pasture Pro, will be doing custom fertilizing using soil testing.

For some, the 3 acres may seem like a waste of time and money, but for me, I am already wasting fuel cutting it every other week, already wasting money on fertilizer. So I spent $5K on equipment, am a pretty good mechanic so repairs are nothing to me, and my only added cost will be for better seed and fertilizer. Instead of spending a few hours every week, I will be spending a few hours for a few days 2-3 times a year, and for that, one, it wont go to waste, someone will buy it, two, I actually get more time for other projects on weekends instead of spending it cutting every other one, three, in my case, it lessens the tax burden on my property taxes. If it's a wash, so be it, but if I make good quality hay for horses, there are plenty of buyers who will pay $5 a bale for it around me. If I make a little bit on it, then it's worth it even more. IOW for MY situation, its a no lose prospect, more positives than negatives.

For the OP though, weigh the benefits to the negatives. How much are you spending in money and time now on it and how much more would you need to put into it for it to be viable. Does the ground need tilling, harrowing, conditioning in order to plant, or can you just drill in new seed on already partially established grass? Will it cut down on property taxes and what is the time to ROI after purchasing equipment? Do you have a decent market in your area? Will you be delivering, or pick up only? Will you need road equipment to deliver?

In my case I already have the majority of it, a new tractor was already in the works before I made the decision, which came out of what can I use the tractor for in addition to what I already do with it. Already have a sprayer, tiller and a few other tools used to maintain the pastures, so in my case, I just needed the MoCo, rake and baler, next year a tedder and drill, the drill I have other plans for but will come in handy for overseeding some new varieties in. After doing a tax review earlier in the year, then refinancing for a better rate, I discovered that all my neighbors have turned half to 3/4 of their land into crop and their taxes are more than half of mine. I could see a reduction of $2,000-$3,000 per year starting year 3. My ROI starting at that point is 2-3 years for the equipment I have now, and in 10 years, a reduction of up to 11 years on the mortgage itself. Instead of just paying what the mortgage with escrow is after the reduction, I would continue paying what I do now, which would go towards principal. $300 more per month really drops the principal down quickly, and also reduces the interest. When I refinanced, instead of paying the new lower rate, I pay the same I did before, so already knocking down the principal. I went from less than 11 years back to 30 by refinancing, but the outlook by doing what I am doing has just increased the actual time out a few years so I can still retire on time with a paid off house.

Of course after a couple years doing this I might just say FI, too much work, and let it go to seed and find a local who would work it, but I really don't want corn and beans in my backyard, I have enough of that on 3 sides already.

If this helps great, if TL;DR, well, sorry, I do tend to ramble a bit.
 
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