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  1. #1
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    Okay, first off... don't laugh at my little 23 HP compact tractor! She's done everything I've asked her to so far... but that is mostly related to Loader work and digging holes with the bucket & auger. Just kidding... I know she ain't a big farm rig.

    Anyhow, we have up to 6 acres available to grow hay on. I figured I could make some extra money if I put it to use, so I'd like to get started this spring. I know NOTHING, and I mean nothing, about farming, so I'm a complete rookie when it comes to this... although I'm pretty capable, so if I get some advice I may be able to make it work!

    I've been reading up on the type of grass to plant, how & when to harvest it, etc. My concerns though are the equipment. Pretty much everything I find for sale (used) around my area are for REAL (full size) tractors. I've seen the mini-baler's online, but those go for around $13k new, and that's quite a bit to spend for a hobby hay farm. If I can avoid it, I don't want to buy another tractor just for the hay work...

    SO...

    Considering the size of my operation, and the size of my tractor (about 20 PTO HP) can any of you recommend which equipment might work for me? What type & size of mower, rake, and baler would be best for me? Or, should I just find a $2500 old big tractor to do the work?

    Also, the land is mostly flat. A couple small rises, but nothing crazy.

    Thanks in advance! Any other advice or recommendations is welcomed too!
    Last edited by TSO; 01-15-2013 at 01:03 AM.
    Massey 1648 Cab - Hustler Z Diesel 66" mower
    2007 F450 Crew - 20' PJ Equipt Trailer
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    WorkSaver SG-26 Stump Grinder * Wallenstein BX42s Chipper * 8ft Ford Brush-Mower
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    345 flawless hrs @ 11/5/14

  2. #2
    Elite Member DT86's Avatar
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    Default

    I honestly don't think you can expect to make the kind of money you're talking about on 6 acres. If that was the case I'd be rich.

  3. #3
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by DT86 View Post
    I honestly don't think you can expect to make the kind of money you're talking about on 6 acres. If that was the case I'd be rich.
    From what I've seen, people seem to expect 200-250 "square" bales per acre, per year. Right now, in my area, Hay is at $8/bale.

    However, I figured I'd underestimate everything. So, if I can get just 100 bales per acre per year, at only $4/bale, that's $400 per acre, and $2400 per year total for 6 acres. If I get good at it, and get 200 bales/acre, and the price is like it is now, and averages $6/bale or more, then I'm looking at $1200 per acre, or $7200 per year total for the 6 acres. I figure $2400 seems to be a safe number ...???

    This would basically just be extra cash on the side, not a living. If I'm missing something here, please let me know! It won't hurt my feelings if you tell me I don't know what the H:LL I'm talking about
    Massey 1648 Cab - Hustler Z Diesel 66" mower
    2007 F450 Crew - 20' PJ Equipt Trailer
    QA 6ft bucket * 5ft Custom Grapple Bucket * QA Forks * 8ft Rhino Back Blade
    7ft Rhino Box Blade * 7ft LandPride Rake * 6.5ft KK HD Box Disc * Middle buster plow
    WorkSaver SG-26 Stump Grinder * Wallenstein BX42s Chipper * 8ft Ford Brush-Mower
    7.5ft QA snow plow (still under construction)

    345 flawless hrs @ 11/5/14

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    Can be done, will have to use smaller equipment and go slow, but they used to bale with 8n tractors back in the day.

    Aaron Z
    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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  5. #5
    Elite Member DT86's Avatar
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    I don't doubt what you are saying about the bales per acre and the going rate for hay locally.

    What I meant was you didn't factor in the initial cost of seed, fertilizer, lime, weed control, ect to get that field into production. Then the cost of any hay equipment and the cost to maintain said equipment.

    Making hay isn't cheap and the fewer bales you make the more cost you have in each one.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    People are paying up to $20 for an 80# square bale for alfalfa out here in California. I know some parts of the country had a bad drought last year and some places have a hay shortage (shortage = high prices).

    How many cuttings per year does your area get? If you can irrigate you might get 2 or 3 (or 4) cuttings a year if the weather cooperates.

  7. #7
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by edlegault View Post
    People are paying up to $20 for an 80# square bale for alfalfa out here in California. I know some parts of the country had a bad drought last year and some places have a hay shortage (shortage = high prices).

    How many cuttings per year does your area get? If you can irrigate you might get 2 or 3 (or 4) cuttings a year if the weather cooperates.
    My area gets a pretty fair amount of precipitation each year. Last year was dry for all of us, but we usually fare pretty well. From what I've been reading, people in Michigan seem to get a 3rd cut, but not very often a 4th. Right now, $8/bale (small square) is common price here, and I've seen $12/bale for 1st cut premium on Craigslist.

    Quote Originally Posted by DT86 View Post
    I don't doubt what you are saying about the bales per acre and the going rate for hay locally.

    What I meant was you didn't factor in the initial cost of seed, fertilizer, lime, weed control, ect to get that field into production. Then the cost of any hay equipment and the cost to maintain said equipment.

    Making hay isn't cheap and the fewer bales you make the more cost you have in each one.
    Yeah, I figured I wouldn't actually "make" any money until a few years, after I paid off the equipment... of course, that will depend on how much it ends up costing me to purchase it. But, I'm relatively young (32) and my boys are young too... the more I learn and acquire now, the better off they are later. If I can figure out what I'm doing, I wouldn't mind buying up farm land and turning it over to them later. In my full-time job, I can't really stay past 50 yrs old, so I'll be looking for a retirement job anyhow. Plus, if the profits from the hay can pay for my tractor and other property toys now, that's always a plus. Not to mention the tax benefits from "farming"

    As for seeding, I've read that Timothy with Alfalfa are common here, and that Timothy is "winter hardy" and that it's a 5-year crop (in my area at least)... does that mean I don't have to seed every year? And in regards of fertilizer, lime, weed control, etc... how much should I expect to spend?

    ---

    As for the equipment - and more specifically the hay rake, from watching different videos, it doesn't appear that it takes a ton of HP to rake the hay into rows. Can I handle a 7-ft rake, or do I need to look for something smaller? How about the mower, which kind should I get for my needs?
    Massey 1648 Cab - Hustler Z Diesel 66" mower
    2007 F450 Crew - 20' PJ Equipt Trailer
    QA 6ft bucket * 5ft Custom Grapple Bucket * QA Forks * 8ft Rhino Back Blade
    7ft Rhino Box Blade * 7ft LandPride Rake * 6.5ft KK HD Box Disc * Middle buster plow
    WorkSaver SG-26 Stump Grinder * Wallenstein BX42s Chipper * 8ft Ford Brush-Mower
    7.5ft QA snow plow (still under construction)

    345 flawless hrs @ 11/5/14

  8. #8
    Gold Member
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by TSO View Post
    as for the equipment - and more specifically the hay rake, from watching different videos, it doesn't appear that it takes a ton of HP to rake the hay into rows. Can I handle a 7-ft rake, or do I need to look for something smaller? How about the mower, which kind should I get for my needs?
    I have pulled a JD side delivery(basket) rake with a 982 Cub Cadet garden tractor, your tractor will pull it just fine.
    2010 JD 2320, 200cx, Frontier 1060R RFM, 2048 BB, LR1072 rake, IMatch, 5 suitcase weights.
    NEED MORE IMPLEMENTS!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    My favorite story about hay production was told to me by a man who was into and out of the cattle business in just a few years. He said hay, was the only business he knew of, where the grower, the bailer and the buyer all lost money. He might have been wrong but, I like to tell that story.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Looking to start growing & harvesting Hay - with a Compact Tractor. Advice please

    First take a soil sample of your field to determine nutrient(fertilizer) needs and pH levels.It will be your largest short term expense and directly effect yields. This can be done with a shovel and clean bucket. If you have a county extension office they may test the sample for $5-10 but it takes a few weeks. Alfalfa is a good choice unless your ground is wet natured(slow to dry) Alfalfa itself is harder to dry than grass, so you need more time or different equipment. But it is high yielding when managed properly. We can get 5 or more cuttings in KY annually without irrigation. Without knowing a lot about your operation I would suggest a mixture of alfalfa, timothy, orchardgrass, lespedesa, a little endophtye free fescue, and a little bluegrass and no clover if you plan on squares to the horse market. Again, just my suggestion. Equipment wise look for a Case/IH 1300 or similiar belt drive 7ft sickle bar mower(it's a start), then a New Holland 256 side delivery rake, a used tedder would be good. We had a MF 120 square baler that might....maybe work for you. Try some locals to see if they would custom bale for you. Very important. Do your best to read the weather, you'll probably need at least four days to cut, tedder, rake, bale, and pick this hay up. Off colored hay will not bring the premium you need. I'll check back in with you after school.

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