More from: hay

Hay Tarps Help Farmers Sell Hay by Weight

With as many as three crops per year, it is common for alfalfa farmers to sell bales of harvested hay by volume. They charge by bale, under the assumption that all of their bales will be of similar size at shipment. But is there a better way? Could it be that selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers? It could be.

According to a very informative article published on the Brownwood Bulletin (Brownwood, TX) website, customers who purchase hay by the bale are always taking the risk of getting smaller bales that do not provide enough volume and may not have been adequately protected against moisture, via hay tarps or other protective means. Author Scott Anderson recommends buying by weight rather than volume.

hay-tarps

His assertion is based on the reality that there is always waste involved when hay is purchased. That waste occurs on two fronts. First, cattle typically do not eat all of the forage presented to them. All sorts of factors influence this. The age of the animals, the quality of the forage, and even the time of year all affect how much is actually eaten. What is not consumed ends up as waste.

The other area of waste is the natural waste that comes with every bale. Anderson contends that among bales of hay that are properly protected by barns or hay tarps, only about 5% is classified as unusable waste. That number jumps dramatically for hay that is not protected. Bales left out at the mercy of the weather can end up containing as much as 28% waste when it comes time to actually break apart a bale and start feeding animals.

Why Purchasing by Weight Is Better

Purchasing hay by weight is better for the customer, again for two reasons. First, purchasing by weight eliminates much of the waste associated with cattle not eating everything provided for them. A farmer or rancher who takes the time to figure out roughly how much forage his animals will eat during the course of an average week or month will know how much hay he needs to have on hand. Purchasing by weight makes it possible to get just what the customer needs without the risk of buying too much that will eventually go to waste.

For example, let’s say a farmer is looking at 1,000 pounds of hay with an average 5% waste. For every thousand pounds purchased, 950 pounds is usable. All the farmer needs to do is calculate how much he will need for feed between deliveries and purchase just that amount.

The second reason for purchasing by weight is to force the producer to know what he is selling. If a farmer doesn’t want to lose a customer, he will take the time to weigh hay bales – and verify their weight – in order to ensure that the customer is getting what he is paying for. The farmer willing to do that is also one who is likely to make the effort to protect hay both in the field and after it comes in.

If a farmer is selling by weight, he certainly does not want to expose his customer to 28% waste, which is why he is more likely to use hay tarps in the field and either store hay in the barn or under larger tarps once the crop is brought in.

Selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers. In the end, it is also better for farmers from as well.

Sources:

1. Brownwood Bulletin – http://www.brownwoodtx.com/lifestyle/20160708/hay-bales-skinny-on-size

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A Bumper Hay Crop Means More Hay Tarps in Action

It appears as though this year is turning out to be a very good one for both hay and livestock producers. Hay production is up almost everywhere and livestock producers are anticipating lower feed prices next year to account for what appears to be a bumper crop for 2016. Even companies providing tertiary support are benefiting from the good year. For example, manufacturers and retailers know that a bumper crop of hay means – more hay tarps in action throughout the fall and winter months.

According to AG Web, the USDA’s acreage report released at the end of June (2016) shows a 3% increase in hay production through the first half of the year, translating to some 56.1 million acres harvested. Of that, just over 18 million acres should generate a 2% increase in total alfalfa production.

hay-crop

AG Web cautions that hay production in the West may modify the government’s number somewhat when their August report is released. Despite a wetter than usual spring, some farmers in the West may be content with the first cutting before planting something else in their fields. That would negatively impact the USDA’s acreage numbers at the end of the year. Still, production should be up overall.

Storing Excess Hay over the Winter

In the state of Idaho, farmers are having another very good year in addition to an exceptional 2015. In fact, the 2016 crop has been so good that some farmers expect to be storing a lot of excess once their final cuts are complete. They are anticipating sales picking up early next year as livestock producers increase feed purchases for their animals. For them, it is all about storing hay until the customers start buying.

Storing hay over the winter can mean the selective use of hay tarps or putting baled hay in storage barns. With either option, farmers have to be very careful about moisture content, exposing baled hay to ground moisture, and preventing pest infestations. But the nation’s farmers have been doing this long enough to protect their crops over the winter.

Farmers who choose the hay tarp route have learned how to stack bales and cover them with tarps in a way that offers maximum protection. Others have barns specifically meant for hay storage during the winter, barns that can be repurposed the following spring and summer for other things. The key is giving the hay plenty of opportunity to breathe without letting it get so dry that it ends up being no good.

During the hot summer months, there is also the ongoing risk of fire. When the moisture content is too high, hay can spontaneously combust. Farmers have to consider that when using hay tarps instead of storage barns.

Time Will Run Its Course

Idaho farmers look to have a bigger excess inventory this year than their counterparts in other states, thanks to perfectly timed rains this spring and summer. The excess is significant enough that some farmers in the state expect it will take two or three years for the market to flatten out. We will have to wait and see, but that’s an awfully long time to have to worry about excess hay storage.

It could be that some hay producers in Idaho cut, bale and store the first and final cuttings of the year while leaving the summer cutting to waste. But in either case, they are going to need plenty of hay tarps to store everything they have harvested this year. It has been a very good year thus far, that’s for sure.

Sources:

1. AG Web – http://www.agweb.com/article/561-million-hay-acres-offers-livestock-producers-hope-for-lower-feed-costs-naa-anna-lisa-laca/
2. Idaho County Free Press – http://www.idahocountyfreepress.com/news/2016/jul/06/camas-prairie-ag-producers-enjoying-bumper-crop-ha/

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Hay Tarps Protect Your Hay – From Cows

Just about every farmer in the U.S. who deals with hay has a collection of hay tarps or some other means of protecting the crop that was harvested. More often than not, tarps are used to keep hay out of the rain so as to prevent mold and mildew, insect infestation, and spontaneous combustion. But there appears to be another very good reason for using tarps: protecting the hay from cows.

A recent video out of Washington state gave an intriguing look into what goes on in a typical pasture when a cattle rancher or farmer isn’t paying attention. The video shows several black cows enjoying their roll in a bale of hay down a hill. The important part here is that an entire bale was likely lost by the time the cows were done with it.

hay-bale

All Downhill from There

An article accompanying the video published by the UK’s Daily Mail says that the incident occurred in Oak Harbor, Washington. Apparently, a group of cows were out grazing in the pasture when one of them, nudged a standing bale of hay with her nose. It began rolling, inviting the cow to nudge it again. Meanwhile, the other cows in the group started running and bucking. Once the hay bale gained some momentum, it was all downhill.

You can tell from the video that there is a slight incline that appears to be just enough to keep the bale moving. As it rolls downhill, the bale completely unravels – until there is nothing left. Meanwhile, the entire herd of cows participating in the party seem to be enjoying the experience. T

In the Field, at the Barn

While the video provides an adorable look at one aspect of a cow’s personality that most of us are not familiar with, there is also the technical and financial sides of the issue for farmers. It is common practice for hay to be bailed and left in the field for days or weeks until it can be collected and brought to the barn. Hay tarps are a tool for protecting any hay left in the field until it can be brought in.

Whether in the field or the barn, a good selection of tarps keeps hay dry. A good tarp might also have prevented the Washington cows from using their bale of hay as a plaything. To illustrate the point, consider the fact that farmers will stack three or four bales of hay together in the field before tarping them. The sheer size of the combined bales would prevent any cows in the pasture from being mischievous.

The key to tarping hay bales is to provide enough coverage to keep moisture off without limiting the ability of the bales underneath to breathe. That’s why you don’t see hay bales completely wrapped in tarp material. Tarps tend to go on top with a little bit draped over the sides just to keep any precipitation or condensation from soaking into the hay.

It is likely the cows in Washington more than enjoyed themselves rolling their hay bale down the hill. Given that cows are more intelligent than most of us know, it is also likely they might try to repeat it if given an opportunity to do so. Stacking several bales together and covering them with a hay tarp should prevent any such incidents from happening again.

Sources:

1. Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3681986/While-farmer-s-away-cows-play-Group-excited-calves-fun-rolling-giant-HAY-BALE-hill.html