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DAVID HERBST: 10 Tips for profitable cash hay operations

"Your success may depend as much on what you are willing to do for the customer as what you can supply."
By David Herbst
Adair County Extension Agent for Agriculture
Cash hay sales can be an income source for many Kentucky farmers. These 10 management tips will help you generate the most profit from this enterprise.

  1. Do some extensive research on what the market will be and who your customers will be. Save some of this year's bales back to show prospective customers or brokers the kind of job you can do.

  2. Realistically assess your ability to procure labor on a timely basis. Be sure you have labor lined up before committing to supply large quantities of hay that you cannot get up.

  3. Base your estimated income on average, not high, market prices for hay. If you can succeed on average prices, you will be in great shape in years when prices are even better. Make a short list on equipment necessary to expand your production capacity and quickly get hay up. Be tight-fisted, but realistic, about the budget. Track your inputs so you can realistically determine if hay is a viable enterprise for your operation.

  4. Target the cleanest, most dense and weed-free fields as those most likely to be good enough for cash hay.

  5. Develop a plan to first harvest the heaviest production in a timely fashion. This first harvest can be nearly 50 percent of your annual yield on good stands in good years.

  6. Work on storage to provide the capacity and access to the hay that you need. Improved storage methods can dramatically reduce losses.

  7. Consider establishing any new alfalfa fields as pure alfalfa and put grass in later. This will help you manage weeds that are hard or impossible to control in grass.

  8. Develop a plan to market hay that is off quality. Opportunities are your own cattle, other beef herds or even as landscape mulch.

  9. Learn all you can about cash hay enterprises from the experts by talking to experienced growers and attending meetings of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and other educational organizations and groups.

  10. Remember that the hay business is a service operation. Your success may depend as much on what you are willing to do for the customer as what you can supply.
For more information contact the Adair County Cooperative Extension Service by calling 384-2317; or visit the office located at 409 Fairground St., in Columbia. Adair County Extension Service, P.O. Box 309, Columbia KY 42728-0309. Phone 270-384-2317
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

This story was posted on 2006-04-19 04:19:52
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