Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"What's hay worth?"

Kari Lewis
The question of, “What’s hay worth?” or “What should I charge for my hay?” is one question that we commonly receive in Extension.  My first question back is, “Well, what’s the quality?”  Hay quality varies significantly based on the type of hay, how it was managed, and how it has been stored, and is ONLY known through getting a hay sample tested through a lab.  Grass/alfalfa hay that is 14% crude protein is worth more than grass/alfalfa hay that is 10% protein.  Barley hay that is free of beards and has been tested free of nitrates is worth more than barley hay of unknown quality.  When folks say their hay is ‘Good quality’ what does that actually mean?  Without a forage analysis, we never know. 
Hay price should be based upon quality, management, and
storage.  Resources for Montana hay prices exist online as
well.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Producers selling hay need to know their cost of production.  That is, what was the cost or rent of the hay ground, tractor, rake, and baler, in addition to the fuel, fertilizer, twine, labor, irrigation, and hauling costs?  If it cost $10,000 to produce 100 tons of hay this year, the cost of production was $100/ton.  Therefore, the producer would need to price the hay at greater than $100/ton in order to make a profit.

Other resources that can be used for setting a hay price include looking at other hay prices in the area.  The Montana Hay Hotline, an online resource available through the Montana Department of Agriculture, is a free listing service for hay sellers and buyers.  Searching for similar hay types provides an idea of hay prices in the area.  However, it’s important to remember that location and quality of the hay will be large factors as to price, so look for hay of similar quality to yours in your local area.  Ag newspapers are also a source of hay prices as well. 

The weekly Montana Hay Report, from the USDA Market News, is published online each Friday and provides a summary of hay prices across Montana.  Hay is priced by size of the bale, type of hay, and quality of hay.  For example, last Friday’s report listed Good quality alfalfa (protein content ranged from 18 to 20% and TDN from 58 to 60%) in large square bales at $120 - $140/ton while large round bales of the same type and kind were $10 back.  Good quality grass hay, from 9 to 13% crude protein, in large rounds was reported at $120/ton. 

In closing, I encourage all buyers to request a hay test before purchasing hay, and I encourage all sellers to have a test available for buyers, it just may make your hay even more valuable!  We would never consider buying a pickup without knowing its mileage or engine size, so why would we consider buying hay without knowing its specifications?  Stop by your local extension office to borrow a hay probe, or with questions. 

No comments:

Post a Comment