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Will let me approach this from my viewpoint as a racehorse guy. That’s what I do, breed and race thoroughbreds, and I have been doing it for over 20 years. I have a small stable here in Kentucky. On my farm, I grow hay for my own race horses and my brood mares, and I sell my excess to racehorse trainers. I grow straight grass, no Clover, no alfalfa, and I bale it very dry to avoid mold. That is the vast majority of the hay I feed my race horses and grass is also the majority of the hay that my fellow trainers feed their horses. Our race horses get all the calories they need from the huge amount of grain we give them on a daily basis. The reason we feed hay is to keep the horses gut moving!! Without lots of roughage a horse will get a gut blockage and colic (and maybe die). So, the hay must taste good to the horse. Palatability is key…and a horse munches many hours a day. Predominantly the grass hay I grow on the farm is orchard grass and some Timothy. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never seen a trainer feed his horses only straight alfalfa hay. We all feed a small amount of alfalfa as a treat. Horses love it, but alfalfa alone would be like putting your toddler on an all Ice cream diet. I suggest you go to the track and walk through the barns. You’ll see hay bags hanging outside almost every stall and they will be full of grass hay. Then there may be a small flake of alfalfa in the stall or feed tub to encourage the horse to eat roughage. My guess is the ratio of alfalfa to grass a on the racetrack is about 1 to 10 or more. So your problem of selling small amounts of alfalfa is just a function of the small portion it makes up of the total hay ration. You might consider selling your hay to a broker who supplies the rest of the hay to the trainers. I often see brokers bring in a load of 50 bales of grass hay, 50 bales of straw for bedding and 5 bales of alfalfa.
For me….no acid please. I don’t need another worry about stomach upset or picky eaters when keeping these fragile animals healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Will let me approach this from my viewpoint as a racehorse guy. That’s what I do, breed and race thoroughbreds, and I have been doing it for over 20 years. I have a small stable here in Kentucky. On my farm, I grow hay for my own race horses and my brood mares, and I sell my excess to racehorse trainers. I grow straight grass, no Clover, no alfalfa, and I bale it very dry to avoid mold. That is the vast majority of the hay I feed my race horses and grass is also the majority of the hay that my fellow trainers feed their horses. Our race horses get all the calories they need from the huge amount of grain we give them on a daily basis. The reason we feed hay is to keep the horses gut moving!! Without lots of roughage a horse will get a gut blockage and colic (and maybe die). So, the hay must taste good to the horse. Palatability is key…and a horse munches many hours a day. Predominantly the grass hay I grow on the farm is orchard grass and some Timothy. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never seen a trainer feed his horses only straight alfalfa hay. We all feed a small amount of alfalfa as a treat. Horses love it, but alfalfa alone would be like putting your toddler on an all Ice cream diet. I suggest you go to the track and walk through the barns. You’ll see hay bags hanging outside almost every stall and they will be full of grass hay. Then there may be a small flake of alfalfa in the stall or feed tub to encourage the horse to eat roughage. My guess is the ratio of alfalfa to grass a on the racetrack is about 1 to 10 or more. So your problem of selling small amounts of alfalfa is just a function of the small portion it makes up of the total hay ration. You might consider selling your hay to a broker who supplies the rest of the hay to the trainers. I often see brokers bring in a load of 50 bales of grass hay, 50 bales of straw for bedding and 5 bales of alfalfa.
For me….no acid please. I don’t need another worry about stomach upset or picky eaters when keeping these fragile animals healthy.
First of all thanks for this feedback. I am going to go to the racetrack next week and walk around and see what is being used. I might take 50 bales of what we have left and see what the buyers have to say. I realize that this might not be indicative of future sales since there is very little hay available right now. Even if enough buyers want 1 or 2 bales of Alfalfa we might sell them all. I never thought about selling straw and while we don't bale straw, I do know a guy that has a bunch that we could be a middle man for. I have not heard of a hay broker at the track but will check on that too.

I have two buyers that have brood mares for Standardbreds. Those two buyers demanded pure alfalfa. I don't know if they are mixing hay together like you are. I need to ask. I know they are providing some grain although I thought they were limiting the grain on the mares during the last trimester and feeding higher quality hay to keep them in good condition. Because these buyers bought about 700 bales of alfalfa last year, and paid much more than grass hay, I thought Alfalfa was the place to be and I had hit on a good sales formula. Now I am not sure, but I have 26 acres of new stand pure alfalfa to sell this year, if I can get it all baled without weather screwing it up. Those fields should be good for another 3 years.

It seems like when I sell grass hay, it always gets discounted well below Alfalfa. It costs the same amount of money for diesel fuel, seed, maintenance and labor to do grass hay versus alfalfa, so I gravitated to more alfalfa. I made more off of 3rd and 4th cutting of Alfalfa last year than I did all on other hay cuttings that were sold. I do believe that the Orchard Grass gives excellent palatability when mixed with Alfalfa so I like that mix. I have fed both types of bales to sheep which are very picky, and they will gravitate to the partial OG bales first. I had one buyer tell me that my mixed hay was too expensive and my pure Afalfa was too cheap!? If I planted pure Orchard Grass, I am not sure who would buy it, but I will ask around at the track. I am faced with replanting about 20 acres this year or next and I don't want to plant anymore pure Alfalfa if I have no buyers.

Funny thing about this thread is that I originally asked if anyone could confirm my findings in the hay tests that I took last year and no real comments on it other than it is just one of many tools to use. I did the TDN equine test thinking that it would prove the quality of my hay to skeptical buyers. I am pretty sure if I sent in pure grass hay samples they are going to have very low RFV and RFQ values. However, if the hay is being used just to keep the rumen safe then the hay test doesn't matter. I have a feeling the amish with work horses and transportation horses might be a better buyer for my high RFV and RFQ quality hay. They wouldn't be feeding anymore grain than is necessary and would welcome high quality hay. The one hay producer that I know that lives about 2 hours from Amish country says he is selling 5,000 bales to them per year and it is mostly alfalfa at $8+ per bale so that would appear to be more profitable than row crops.

My current thoughts on marketing strategy for pure or mostly Alfalfa small squares has now morphed into a multi-pronged approach. Buyers would include current brood mare horse buyers delivered to their farm, showing up at the horse track once a week and amish country when I want to move larger amounts. Don't know any amish right now, but there are three big amish hay markets 2 hours away from me. If I can transport 200-300 bales at a time then it would be worth it. Of course, I will also be doing round bales for myself and other buyers on some first cutting fields.

I am still going to do my testing this year, even though most buyers may not care. I may have divulged too much about my strategy but not sure there are very many competitors on this forum and I have to believe many high volume hay producers have wrestled with this same problem. So greatly appreciate any further feedback. I think I need to take advantage of being 25 minutes from a horse track. One of the primary hay producers at the track has gotten out of hay due to medical issues so there is an opening for someone new. I gave up on row crops 3 years ago for many reasons and it has put me in this position to have to find a market for the hay. Each year since then I think I am not going to sell what hay we produced and each yearweI have. Given the input costs for row crops this year and other unknowns, I think it was a better strategy to move to all hay on the acres that I own. Of course, if the economy really goes south then horse counts will go down, but the current buyers seem to be well funded.

Like Mike Tyson says: Everyone has a game plan until they get hit in the mouth. :) We are a few weeks from getting this hay baling season going and while I still have some operational issues to solve, I am in a better position than ever before. I can't wait to get some hay down!
 

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First of all thanks for this feedback. I am going to go to the racetrack next week and walk around and see what is being used. I might take 50 bales of what we have left and see what the buyers have to say. I realize that this might not be indicative of future sales since there is very little hay available right now. Even if enough buyers want 1 or 2 bales of Alfalfa we might sell them all. I never thought about selling straw and while we don't bale straw, I do know a guy that has a bunch that we could be a middle man for. I have not heard of a hay broker at the track but will check on that too.

I have two buyers that have brood mares for Standardbreds. Those two buyers demanded pure alfalfa. I don't know if they are mixing hay together like you are. I need to ask. I know they are providing some grain although I thought they were limiting the grain on the mares during the last trimester and feeding higher quality hay to keep them in good condition. Because these buyers bought about 700 bales of alfalfa last year, and paid much more than grass hay, I thought Alfalfa was the place to be and I had hit on a good sales formula. Now I am not sure, but I have 26 acres of new stand pure alfalfa to sell this year, if I can get it all baled without weather screwing it up. Those fields should be good for another 3 years.

It seems like when I sell grass hay, it always gets discounted well below Alfalfa. It costs the same amount of money for diesel fuel, seed, maintenance and labor to do grass hay versus alfalfa, so I gravitated to more alfalfa. I made more off of 3rd and 4th cutting of Alfalfa last year than I did all on other hay cuttings that were sold. I do believe that the Orchard Grass gives excellent palatability when mixed with Alfalfa so I like that mix. I have fed both types of bales to sheep which are very picky, and they will gravitate to the partial OG bales first. I had one buyer tell me that my mixed hay was too expensive and my pure Afalfa was too cheap!? If I planted pure Orchard Grass, I am not sure who would buy it, but I will ask around at the track. I am faced with replanting about 20 acres this year or next and I don't want to plant anymore pure Alfalfa if I have no buyers.

Funny thing about this thread is that I originally asked if anyone could confirm my findings in the hay tests that I took last year and no real comments on it other than it is just one of many tools to use. I did the TDN equine test thinking that it would prove the quality of my hay to skeptical buyers. I am pretty sure if I sent in pure grass hay samples they are going to have very low RFV and RFQ values. However, if the hay is being used just to keep the rumen safe then the hay test doesn't matter. I have a feeling the amish with work horses and transportation horses might be a better buyer for my high RFV and RFQ quality hay. They wouldn't be feeding anymore grain than is necessary and would welcome high quality hay. The one hay producer that I know that lives about 2 hours from Amish country says he is selling 5,000 bales to them per year and it is mostly alfalfa at $8+ per bale so that would appear to be more profitable than row crops.

My current thoughts on marketing strategy for pure or mostly Alfalfa small squares has now morphed into a multi-pronged approach. Buyers would include current brood mare horse buyers delivered to their farm, showing up at the horse track once a week and amish country when I want to move larger amounts. Don't know any amish right now, but there are three big amish hay markets 2 hours away from me. If I can transport 200-300 bales at a time then it would be worth it. Of course, I will also be doing round bales for myself and other buyers on some first cutting fields.

I am still going to do my testing this year, even though most buyers may not care. I may have divulged too much about my strategy but not sure there are very many competitors on this forum and I have to believe many high volume hay producers have wrestled with this same problem. So greatly appreciate any further feedback. I think I need to take advantage of being 25 minutes from a horse track. One of the primary hay producers at the track has gotten out of hay due to medical issues so there is an opening for someone new. I gave up on row crops 3 years ago for many reasons and it has put me in this position to have to find a market for the hay. Each year since then I think I am not going to sell what hay we produced and each yearweI have. Given the input costs for row crops this year and other unknowns, I think it was a better strategy to move to all hay on the acres that I own. Of course, if the economy really goes south then horse counts will go down, but the current buyers seem to be well funded.

Like Mike Tyson says: Everyone has a game plan until they get hit in the mouth. :) We are a few weeks from getting this hay baling season going and while I still have some operational issues to solve, I am in a better position than ever before. I can't wait to get some hay down!
I'm with Eddy in KY, horse hay is different from cattle and the latter also differs from dairy & beef.
Horses have a poor digestive system, cattle much better, just saw a program on exactly this and they were saying that TDN & Protein % are important in dairy and not so much in beef and that in fact beef cattle should not be fed at the same level as dairy. Horses need a constant feed of roughage to keep their gut and mind healthy and to prevent possible twisted guts when rolling, this is all part of proper horse management, there are reasons why stalls ought to be no less than 15x15' better if bigger, but cost comes into play and here again cost comes into play with hay, I'm an old geezer and learned from people who used horses daily for riding e working, they all said that a low energy type hay is best. I found that today for our situation the best is 20% alfalfa or birdsfoot trefoil and 80% timothy or OG or some other palatable kind that can provide bulk depending on your area.
You may have to chose your market, horse owners come in all colours, from the knowledgeable ones to the not so knowledgeable (to be kind). The ones that will pay the most are trainers at the racetrack and dairy farmers, but they need 2 different types of hay. Not easy to answer, "generally" cattle owners are a bit more forgiving on the hay. for horses any trace of dust/mould would mean rejection. I don't know if what I've said is of any help, but you seem eager and in earnest so I'm sure you'll find the right answer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
I'm with Eddy in KY, horse hay is different from cattle and the latter also differs from dairy & beef.
Horses have a poor digestive system, cattle much better, just saw a program on exactly this and they were saying that TDN & Protein % are important in dairy and not so much in beef and that in fact beef cattle should not be fed at the same level as dairy. Horses need a constant feed of roughage to keep their gut and mind healthy and to prevent possible twisted guts when rolling, this is all part of proper horse management, there are reasons why stalls ought to be no less than 15x15' better if bigger, but cost comes into play and here again cost comes into play with hay, I'm an old geezer and learned from people who used horses daily for riding e working, they all said that a low energy type hay is best. I found that today for our situation the best is 20% alfalfa or birdsfoot trefoil and 80% timothy or OG or some other palatable kind that can provide bulk depending on your area.
You may have to chose your market, horse owners come in all colours, from the knowledgeable ones to the not so knowledgeable (to be kind). The ones that will pay the most are trainers at the racetrack and dairy farmers, but they need 2 different types of hay. Not easy to answer, "generally" cattle owners are a bit more forgiving on the hay. for horses any trace of dust/mould would mean rejection. I don't know if what I've said is of any help, but you seem eager and in earnest so I'm sure you'll find the right answer.
Thanks for the feedback. I would believe that my Alfalfa hay would be good for dairy but I tried some dairy herds around me and didn't get a positive response. They already had deals struck. I am going to see what is selling at the track and go from there at this point. I have to make replant decisions soon so I may have to use two different combinations of grass/alfalfa hay and see what sells. It is not an ideal strategy but in the end, I think I can move it all, one way or another. One of my friends said if you start out with 80/20 Alfalfa/OG in 2-3 years you will be at 50/50, then 2 more years at 20/80 so just keep rotating your fields at different times and you will have a little bit of everything. I am trying to match my market with my production and still make it worth while. The goal is to bale 5,000 small squares this season and sell them all at a 20% before tax profit by next May. I can store 2500 so I have to sell 2500 before October and not take a loss on those.
 

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One of my friends said if you start out with 80/20 Alfalfa/OG in 2-3 years you will be at 50/50, then 2 more years at 20/80 so just keep rotating your fields at different times and you will have a little bit of everything. I am trying to match my market with my production and still make it worth while. The goal is to bale 5,000 small squares this season and sell them all at a 20% before tax profit by next May. I can store 2500 so I have to sell 2500 before October and not take a loss on those.
This is true, but the empty space left by the alfalfa will be taken up by weeds, so you must always maintain a certain sward thickness, it's balancing act! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Agreed on the balancing act. I have had no luck on over-seeding either.
 
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As for input costs to grow hay, straight grass will go for years without a lot of reseeding if you manage it well. That is certainly not true with alfalfa. It is also easier to keep a stand of straight grass weed free with herbicides. Good alfalfa will demand a premium price, maybe double grass hay, but the downside is the lower sale volume to the horse buyer. Selling hay 10 bales at a time is a pain. Your idea of taking a load to the track is a good one. Trainers are always on the lookout for a reliable hay supplier at a fair price. I suggest you go about 11am. Morning training is over and people are available as they clean up the horses, barns and fill feed tubs. Don't take any wooden nickels. Be sure you get paid on the spot until you know the buyers. Most trainers work hard to find good reliable suppliers. I no longer have to advertise for buyers for my excess hay. I just call a list of old buyers and they show up quickly.
You are doing it right to develop a business plan before you get too far down the road.
 

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One point about track manners. Tracks are really busy and congested from about 5am until 10:30. Driving a hay truck into the narrow streets between the barns before 11 am, will not make you welcome on the backside.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Again, thanks for the suggestions. I am going Monday to buy my vendor license that will allow me to sell hay at the track. I am going to look over the situation while there and see where best to setup. I believe there is precedence on where I should setup to sell the hay from past vendors. I had been told by someone else that after 11AM is necessary to stay away from the congestion. I will keep you informed of my progress. Still mulling the straight grass planting scenario but will probably do a test run on a 4 acre patch. Most likely will do 20% Alfalfa and 80% OG due to your suggestion. I wanted to have it planted soon but weather is not cooperating. Maybe after next week's warmup. Had about 3 inches of rain over the last few days. 0% corn planted in my neighborhood and they are many days away at this stage so you know that is bad weather.
 

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Thanks for the feedback. I would believe that my Alfalfa hay would be good for dairy but I tried some dairy herds around me and didn't get a positive response. They already had deals struck.
I don't believe you could give away a small square bale to a dairy. If you told them you could put a truckload of alfalfa silage in their yard, then they would talk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I had 90 4x5 round bales of alfalfa at the time. Discounted them too. Good news is I got rid of most of them. I had no storage space left so round baling was best option. I have an individual bale wrapper but I don't have a silage round baler so I can't bale wet stuff for baleage. I have come to the conclusion that the money is in small squares for my operation and market. I think you really need the big squares for high volume, easy shipping and those balers are out of reach right now.
 

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I have a disc mower that doesn't crimp so stems contain moisture. It lays it wide because of no crimping. M cuttings have been very thick, even 2nd cutting due to a bunch of rain. I believe the bottom keeps picking up ground moisture. Even in the middle of the summer, I have had this problem. In years past, my lawn would turn brown in July. It hasn't happened for at least 3 years. I have to mow week after week. I think that's why I am getting brown on top and green underneath. This is happening before I ever put a rake to it so the rotary rake wouldn't help in this case. The excess moisture is making for heavy dew so I may be getting it from both ground moisture and dew. I have had to wait until the 3rd day on Alfalfa to even begin to think about baling and I once waited 5 days but it made good hay. This year may be different who knows. I have thought I should move the hay around with the tedderer two mornings in a row to move the top hay around so it won't get even browner. I know each time I am losing leaves though. I have been waiting until I see 3 days in a row with highs in the 80s before I consider cutting the alfalfa. I have done nighttime cutting due to off farm job so if that is hurting the situation, then I can't stop doing that.

The schedule you laid out wouldn't work well for me in the past. I can rake in the morning after dew and be done by 1PM, but I usually start baling by 2PM to finish by 5 or 6. However with the new 348 baler my capacity is much higher and I could delay it to maybe 4PM. I also wanted to try acid because I have had trouble getting in between the rains. This might allow me to start a day sooner in some cases. Maybe less brown by starting sooner.

I have not baled high moisture hay before so when you mean stack it so it can dry, I assume you mean lots of air space around the bales? On side instead of on strings? Or both?
Usually for alfalfa that isn't crimped it is advisable to use a wheel rake or basket rake that instead of throwing the hay around flips it over so the bottom part of the windrow is able to dry, this can be instrumental in letting the moisture out and not getting bad color in your bales but should not be let to dry where it gets discolored from being sun bleached.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Thanks for your comments. I do have a v-rake with a kicker so I can turn it over. I think I will do this before it gets too dry and brown on one side this year and see if it will keep the bad color/sun bleaching from appearing.

Basically going to rake a little sooner than I had in the past to see if this helps on color.
 
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