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Author Topic: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?  (Read 1313 times)

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« on: January 12, 2018, 10:43:56 pm »
Is it worth making hay, whether yourself or using contractors, from let's say 5 acres? Would it be cheaper to buy 500 square bales or buy and maintain hay making equipment?
Would it be feasible to use walk behind tractor to cut and take the grass and then buck rake it and store loose hay in barn? Obviously you would need a lot more storage space but no money spend bailing.
Hmmm  ???
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.
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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 12:17:29 am »
We now make hay on not much more than an acre.  We have machinery from when we made much more, so still use that.  I can't imagine contractors would do it for us even if we didn't have our own machinery, but they would do 5 acres.  We absolutely could not make 5 acres of hay by hand, as it would take too long.  Here in Scotland we usually get just one chance a year, and sometimes not that, to have a 5 day warm, breezy and dry window.  In that time we turn our crop every day.  To do that by hand in that time frame would need a large team of workers used to making hay by hand - it's exhausting work, especially in the heat. So you would need some type of tedder.
Whether it's worthwhile buying your own machinery depends.  All our stuff is very second hand, some rescued from the scrappy, some rejected by everyone else at Lanark machinery sales, but Mr F is good at mechanic-ey stuff so he maintains everything.  Last year our tedder broke finally and irreparably, so we actually bought a new one  :o :o   It wasn't especially expensive, but if we had bought everything new, well, we couldn't have done that.  Then we would be back at the end of the queue waiting our turn with the contractor.  In that case, it would be cheaper to buy in the hay.  Be careful though - one load of hay we bought in a wet year when we didn't get our own crop, contained so many thistle seeds that we have been taken over by the things, and attempting to eradicate them is an annual job.
We prefer our own grass as we don't use fertilisers so don't get staggers or bloat or whatever, and it's a very varied and nutritious sward which our sheep love.
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Rupert the bear

  • Joined Jun 2015
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 03:58:12 am »
We now make hay on not much more than an acre.  We have machinery from when we made much more, so still use that.  I can't imagine contractors would do it for us even if we didn't have our own machinery, but they would do 5 acres.  We absolutely could not make 5 acres of hay by hand, as it would take too long.  Here in Scotland we usually get just one chance a year, and sometimes not that, to have a 5 day warm, breezy and dry window.  In that time we turn our crop every day.  To do that by hand in that time frame would need a large team of workers used to making hay by hand - it's exhausting work, especially in the heat. So you would need some type of tedder.
Whether it's worthwhile buying your own machinery depends.  All our stuff is very second hand, some rescued from the scrappy, some rejected by everyone else at Lanark machinery sales, but Mr F is good at mechanic-ey stuff so he maintains everything.  Last year our tedder broke finally and irreparably, so we actually bought a new one  :o :o   It wasn't especially expensive, but if we had bought everything new, well, we couldn't have done that.  Then we would be back at the end of the queue waiting our turn with the contractor.  In that case, it would be cheaper to buy in the hay.  Be careful though - one load of hay we bought in a wet year when we didn't get our own crop, contained so many thistle seeds that we have been taken over by the things, and attempting to eradicate them is an annual job.
We prefer our own grass as we don't use fertilisers so don't get staggers or bloat or whatever, and it's a very varied and nutritious sward which our sheep love.
Absolutely spot , on self reliance is the only way , you know what you’re making and no worries about contractors not turning up

Backinwellies

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  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 07:56:31 am »
Same risk as buying anything in .... but not knowing what stock you have would 5 acres of hay (with all the stress of watching weather) be enough or would you have to buy in anyway?    We buy all ours in now after paying almost the same per bale for it to be made for us .... and it come from Wiltshire where GOOD hay is made .... and bought in from another area will bring different minerals in with it too.

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Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2018, 08:20:21 am »
We have two 4 acre blocks which are used for hay now, but started with one 5 acre block.  Doing it yourself is hard work but the advantage of timing is huge.  In bad conditions we cut and turn ourselves but get a contractor to bale and wrap (this gets fitted in between larger jobs) otherwise we small bale as hay.  We are getting asked to bale other peoples plots as most contractors round here no longer run the small balers.

Sbom

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Staffordshire
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2018, 09:39:44 am »
Definitely worth it as long as you are confident you know what your doing.

Making bad hay is much easier than making good hay!

The weather the last two years has been very challenging on the hay making front.

Sudanpan

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • West Cornwall
    • Movement is Life
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 04:38:46 pm »
We make small bale hay on about 2.5 acres. We bought our cutter, haybob and baler via auction over a few years so are self reliant. When we didn't have the equipment it was a nightmare trying to get a contractor as it was't worth their while to do a small acreage when the bigger acreages were ready at the same time.
Hard work but very satisfying - we only keep circa 10 bales for our own use and sell the rest to a donkey sanctuary at a reduced rate - win win as we need to manage our field and they need huge amounts of food!

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 04:59:42 pm »
Around here we had fantastic season (2017) for making hay.

How big of a shed do you need to store five acres worth of hay (500ish bales)? I couldn't make any accurate calculations...

So basically if you can get second hand equipment in working conditions it would be worth it. New equipment, baler especially is ridiculously expensive! Even little one for two wheel tractor cost over £8k! You can buy a brand new compact tractor for that quite easily
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 09:25:26 pm »
There are so many variables, but I would say at the very least it is useful to be able to cut and turn it yourself. Nothing worse than having yours cut last the day after everyone elses. Then paying to have it turned, and it's just not ready to bale, because of that lost day, so your's gets rained on - so you've paid out to bale rubbish.


Another factor, as mentioned is the size of storage shed needed for 5 acres of hay. I would say at least a 30' x 30', and a 60' x 30' would provide storage for your equipment as well. So that's another cost. Hay does not store well under a tarpaulin - it goes fusty.


We used to make up to 10 acres of hay in large bales but I don't now as I prefer to have plenty of grass for grazing. This means I can get my lambs fat on grass and sold by the end of August, and my cattle stay in good condition on cheap grass and have enough condition not to need  concentrates in winter. So although I buy hay in winter, I have a regular supplier and it's always good, and I no longer have to buy concentrates for my lambs or cattle.


A neighbouring farmer shuts up a lot of his fields for hay. But the grass doesn't grow back immediately so his cattle are on short rations in July with all the grass cut or eaten. So each year we have 40 + cows and calves breaking out and feeding on the field margins and trampling through the crops. And his cows never look particularly well covered, or full of milk.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2018, 12:07:52 am »
See! That's a very important issue You have mentioned! If you manage your paddocks properly you won't need as much hay because there will be fresh grass available for much longer time!
I am a huge fan of mob grazing, I.e. frequent rotation and relatively long periods of rest.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2018, 03:42:17 pm »
You've got it. :thumbsup:
Grass is never reduced below about 2" - 3" in the growing season so there's always enough leaf left to produce new growth. Any excess is topped, so keeping optimum digestibility. As you've pointed out this then prolongs the growing season and reduces need to buy in in winter.


Grass production is a science of its own. Feed value of grass decreases rapidly as the stem elongates and it starts to produce seed. If you scalp the grass because it's in short supply then you greatly increase the time that it takes to produce new growth, simply because there is little leaf left to make the food that the new growth needs. If you move the animals on while there's still grass in a field then it will quickly recover and can be grazed again in a matter of weeks. :sunshine:


 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 10:59:02 am by landroverroy »
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2018, 04:40:04 pm »
Also it's worth having a good mixture of grass and Forbes species.
Mix of warm season and cold season grasses.
Where I sawn some this spring I still have dark grass growing, in other areas it a short and yellowish.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

honeyend

  • Joined Oct 2011
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2018, 08:03:22 pm »
I buy in hay. The most I have ever spent is about £1500 when it was a really bad year and I had a lot of animals.
  The last couple of years I have had some free hay, as I got the grass free and the making for a water supply but I am not tempted to make my own.
  My neighbour got hers cut the end of August, I think they charge about a £ a bale, then she has to stack it, cart it and store it. I have just bought some in at £2, delivered and stacked. I bought round straw at £10 and round hay at £15, as I buy in season. Buying in you buy the best you can afford, the big hay makers can cut, turn and bale so quickly that they are more likely to get it in when the weathers right.
  My husband has enough trouble with the lawnmower, I think a baler would make him spontaneously combust.

sabrina

  • Joined Nov 2008
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2018, 08:38:31 pm »
If you can't make it yourself then my adice would be buy in. The stress of watching the weather and waiting for the guy to turn up to cut, turn and bale is horrible. Baring in mind he will be doing the same for others. You could lose the whole lot due to rain and still have to get it baled and off the field. Buying in can be risky too. Some years I get good hay other times not so great. Then i buy in haylage in small bales. Up to now I have always bought big bales but now thinking about small bales of hay. As I get older my fingers bother me a lot and trying to pull hay off a big bale can be painful. Best if you can do the whole job yourself.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Is it worth making hay on small acreage? Maybe loose hay?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2018, 03:50:52 pm »
Making bad hay is much easier than making good hay!
..... and making bad hay costs the same as making good hay.  We have a super contractor who was born nearby and knows this area, the land and the weather (happy 89th birthday, John).   We just ask him to make hay and let him get on with it.  The only folks that don't get good hay are those that decide for themselves when their hay should be cut, like the neighbour who told him to cut the day before it rained for three weeks.

 

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