Hay production and hay marketing is very common in Hopkins County. According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension forage specialists while large quantities of hay are sold as small square bales, cow-calf producers primarily use large round bales because they require less labor to store and feed. Most hay for cow-calf production systems is sold on a per-round bale basis and there are two major problems with this. First, buying hay on a per-round bale basis does not tell you the nutritive value of the bale. Hay is often advertised as “well” or “heavily fertilized,” but these terms are not precise. The actual levels of crude protein and digestible energy, and other nutritive characteristics of the forage should be established through laboratory analysis so producers can make sound purchasing and feeding decisions. Why should a bale with only 6 percent crude protein sell for the same price as a bale that contains 14 percent crude protein? In most cases they should not, yet these differences are not obvious to the naked eye. “Well fertilized” hay may not meet the animal’s nutrient requirements, and supplementation can dramatically increase the cost of the feeding program. Hay with higher nutritive value, as documented by a laboratory, may cost more, but it could prove to be a more economical strategy if it eliminates the need for supplements. The other problem with buying by the bale is that the amount of dry matter being sold or purchased is unknown.
Bale size varies tremendously with the baling equipment used, the skill of the equipment operator, the forage species, the moisture content of the bale, the type of wrap used, and the way the hay was stored. Economic analysis shows bermudagrass hay costs $110 to $120 per ton to produce when all inputs, (labor, equipment, fuel, repairs, taxes, depreciation, fertility, herbicide, etc.) are accounted for. Given this cost, a 1,200-pound round bale priced at $45 is a good buy, but if the bale weighs only 700 pounds, it is not. When hay is sold by the bale, rather than by weight, either the seller or the purchaser is getting short-changed. The answer to selling or buying round bales of unknown weight and nutritive value is to analyze and weigh the hay. The nutritive value and weight of each lot of hay can be established by a lab test and a trip across a set of scales. The actual dry weight of hay is determined by adjusting for moisture content as measured by a moisture probe. During the Hopkins County Hay Show, hay producers can submit a hay sample of their own produced hay and have the sample analyzed by a laboratory (Courtesy of the Northeast Texas Farmer’s CO-OP) by entering to the Hopkins County Hay Show until September 18th, 2015 . Not only you will get to know the quality of the hay you are producing and selling, but also will get a chance to win up to $100!. Samples can be entered at the Hopkins County Extension Office at 1200B Houston Street in Sulphur Springs before September 18th, 2015. For more information on this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at [email protected].