By Ray Hicks
Screven County CEC
As we wind down from the summer it is time to start looking at budgets for next year. As a cattle producer, feed is always one of the most costly inputs. Now as Dr. Dennis Hancock, Georgia Extension Forage Specialist, says “Grass grows Grass! And the most efficient way to harvest that grass is grazing.” But this is not always available to the average cattle producer. Most of us either put up the hay ourselves or have it custom harvested – or even more buy the hay that we need for the winter months.
Let’s just look at hay production on your farm. First, we assume that you have the land and the grass is established. Next, you have to have some equipment. Bare minimum is two tractors: one for cutting and raking and the other for baling and moving. We are going to assume that you are round baling this hay so a baler is necessary. You may also need a whole host of other pieces of equipment including a tedder, or a trailer to move the hay – but let’s just stay with the basics. New cost could be in excess of $135,000 with interest rate of 5% (a yearly payment of $7000) and this is just equipment.
Now, think about growing the grass. Using fertilizer prices of $0.42/unit of N, $.39/unit of P and $0.28/unit of K. and a bare minimum rate of 200 lbs. /A of N, 60 lbs. /A of P and 200 lbs. /A of K, and also throwing in ½ tn. of lime each year at $20 totals up to $183/A/yr. for fertilizer. Herbicide and insecticide programs will run about $40/A. Machinery fuel, maintenance and repairs, and that age old question of labor will run you around $135/A.
Let’s say you are cutting 50 acres. You can divide your equipment payment over that and come up with $140/A. Totaling all these up and assuming you make 5 tons /A you would have $458/A or $46 per bale. This is not counting storage, spoilage and your time for management.
As you can see there are a lot of factors going into your hay production costs. I would suggest that you sit down with your Extension Agent, look at a budget, and put a fine pencil to your cost.