View Full Version : Baling your own hay

Apr. 27, 2011, 08:20 PM
Does anyone know anything about either baling your own hay or having a farmer do it for you?

Apr. 27, 2011, 08:23 PM
I love my hay dude!! He bales my 10 acres of coastal bermuda. I pay for the fertilizer and weed spraying. He cuts, bales and stacks. We either split it or if it's really nice and I have the room, I buy his half. This gets me beautiful hay and my ag discount. I usually sell a few hundred bales to cover my costs. And I don't have to mow my pastures :)

Apr. 27, 2011, 08:52 PM
Does anyone know anything about either baling your own hay or having a farmer do it for you?

Doing it yourself? Be prepared to shell out about $10k for old equipment that you'll have to nurse along, or more for stuff that is going to run fairly flawlessly...at least those are the prices in my area. Plus the tractor to pull everything.

Having a farmer do it? Be aware that unless he's literally right next door to you (and sometimes not even then) most farmers won't bother with anything under about five acres or so. Just not worth their time if they're splitting the hay with you, in terms of how much time and effort goes into haying a field. Also be aware that if you do find a nice farmer to do your small piece....it's going to come below his own fields in his list of priorities. There is no way around it.

Also, and I don't even know why it still needs to be said, but it does because no one ever seems to have one when they come on here to whine, but GET A CONTRACT. Outline what the specific deal is (splitting hay/paying per acre/whatever) and what exactly happens if the deal doesn't work out.

Apr. 27, 2011, 08:56 PM
And be careful if you do it yourself. The first year our BO's husband did it he got the moisture wrong - nearly set the whole place afire when more than a few bales got hot - spontaneous combustion on a large scale is scary, especially when it's a barn. He's gotten much better at it and makes lovely hay now.

Apr. 27, 2011, 09:03 PM
our first year here a neighboring farmer generously let us borrow his equipment when he was not using it. (We had our tractor....borrowed his cutter/flipper/baler). Getting the moisture right is a learned art. We did not burn any barns down! Wit jut 2 of us doing it with the rains a coming....we about died trying to get 1200 bales in first cutting. The knotter it tricky to get the tension right too or you break the twine all the time. The next year had an Amish neighbr help us in exchange for part of the hay crop. Waaay better for us!!

Apr. 28, 2011, 12:56 PM
We have done both. Hired someone to mow, rake and bale as we did not want to invest in all the equipment. We had to load and unload wagons, trying to coordinate 3 people's schedules to cooperate with the weather did not work well so we had local farmer bale for us. This was wonderful until his boys graduated from high school and moved out. We now rent our former hay ground to a neighbor and buy our hay. Rent $ covers a significant amount of the cost. I used big square bales this past winter and they were delivered and stacked by my hay guy. They worked out really well.

Apr. 28, 2011, 01:10 PM
We're very lucky that our neighbor/farmer bales our 20 acres for us. He charges us $1.30 a bale, we can't beat that!! He's been great to us, he's been there to teach us along the way, such as getting the soil tested, when to apply the lime, fertilizer & reseed, etc. And he staggers cutting our hay, meaning he doesn't drop all our hay at once, we lost our first cutting the other year but it was only one of the fields, so we still had the other field to bale. He'll bring the hay wagons right up to our hay shed then it's up to us to unload & stack, we usually pay kids per wagon load to help us, plus dinner out, but now that we have a hay elevator life is that much easier & we don't need as much help. Yes, probably moisture content is the hardest thing we deal with, as we have lots of clover in our mix, but we like the clover & so do our horses. The farmer that bales our hay is a full time farmer so we do understand that his real job comes first & whenever we see him bringing in his own hay or straw we're sure to drop what we're doing & help unload & stack for him, as we know how good he has been to us.

Apr. 28, 2011, 02:19 PM
Well TamarainTN does it as her business - we defer to her a lot. :)

But I have a fulltime job and ride as my hobby and I do my own hay. What everyone else has said is pretty true. My parents did it, so I learned all the ins and out growing up. Now I do it myself - yes it is a LOT of work - my fields produce 1200-1800 bales for first crop - I don't need any more so I don't do 2nd.

Your machinery rules - old can be OK, but you have to know the quirks, and how to fix it on the fly.

The best way to get into it would be to sort of apprentice with someone who knows how. A lot of it is feel/instinct. I can pick up a handful of stuff and know whether it's ready to bale, or if it's still 'grass'. How fast you can push the machines is another learning curve - sure you can bale in 4th gear, but you are far more likely to break something.

I really enjoy the process, but that's just me.

Apr. 28, 2011, 06:29 PM
Nothing like the smell of just cut/baled hay :) Cutting your own hay will make you neurotic about the weather, please rain, please don't rain.

Apr. 28, 2011, 06:36 PM
You know, once upon a time tractors were not used to
bring in the hay, horses were. Amish still do it that way.
You could buy a horse mower and a rake. It isn't very
hard where I live to find someone to bale a smaller field
if you can take round or giant square bales. Or you can
bring the hay in loose if you have a mow to store it in;
that was once done as well. It is, be advised, a whale
of a lot of physical work.

Apr. 29, 2011, 11:19 AM
We grow and bale our own hay, about 100 acres, 3 crops per year. We have "middle aged" equipment and are able to do most of our own repairs. However, I took a bearing out of our swing tongue mower last fall and that turned into a nightmare. And almost $1400 in repairs :eek:.

IF you have someone willing to do it for you who will do a good job, that will be the most cost effective.

Haying is a lot of work. However, I love the farming end of things. Few things equal the "communing with nature" that farmings brings you. Call me crazy but I don't think I'd have it any other way :).

Apr. 29, 2011, 01:59 PM
We have about 12 acres of brome that we have been lucky enough to find someone to cut and bale for us. We end up with anywhere from 800-1000 square bales of beautiful hay IF we get it done at the right time and between rains. We have a tractor so do our own fertilizing and basically walk & weed it by hand before baling. Then we turn our horses out on it to graze for the rest of the year. The biggest problem we have is finding HELP ! Kids nowadays don't want to do hard labor, so we struggle to get help or do most of it ourselves and thankfully the current hay guy has great equipment including a stacker - that has saved alot of time as he can put the bales on the wagon and we only have to handle it once to get it in the barn. We keep all of ours and pay to have it done. We've deabted about switched to having it round baled just save our backs. . . Love the squares but it is so much more work.

Apr. 29, 2011, 03:01 PM
We used to bale our own hay. As 2nd and 3rd generation farmers, we had both the equipment and knowledge. But, the upkeep on the old equipment became cost prohibitive, and the disruption to every one's daily life was too much of an inconvenience. As if the variable of the weather didn't already affect the hay making process enough, try scheduling your time off work around it! And then there were the bad backs and aches and pains.

Not that finding a reliable hay supplier is much cheaper or easier!!! AND, sometimes you don't know until you open a bale that it wasn't properly baled and not you have $500 worth of mulch hay :sadsmile:

May. 1, 2011, 11:03 AM
A skill I'd love to learn someday, but right now I don't have time and am plenty well supplied with things to stress out over! :lol:

I let the weather, the soil, the price of fuel, the rain and the tractor maintenance be my hay guy's problem. He's a patient, so keeping HIM going is MY problem! :lol:

May. 1, 2011, 11:36 AM
We bale our own hay - put up about 3,500 square bales and 35 - 50 round bales. It's a lot of work but I don't mind so much - there's something rewarding about the outside work to feed our beloved horses. however, there's stress and $$ involved as well - especially with the gas prices going through the roof.

One of the great things about growing and baling our own hay is that we KNOW what our horses are eating. We take 1st cutting in June - mostly Timothy grass blend and 2nd cutting is 1/2 Alfalfa and grass blend. We don't typically make a 3rd cutting - but have done it when the weather didn't cooperate and allow us a 2nd cutting.

We also built mini sheds for the round bales and made the roof out of tarp - this has served 2 great purposes - keeps the hay dry and de-sensitizes horses to noise and moving tarps :) Those plastic hay-houses are REALLY cool but uber expensive.

My job is to load the bales on to the elevator up to the loft. I don't drive the tractor am too chicken!

May. 1, 2011, 01:15 PM
With hay going for $10 a bale in this area, I wish I could bale my own. One of my friends in ME did it, and while it was worth it, she was totally at the mercy of the weather and equipment that broke down all the time. I liked buying it out of the field. It was a good savings, a good work out and you could see where your hay was coming from. Plus it was $2.00 a bale. I miss those days.

May. 1, 2011, 04:10 PM
Thanks everyone! I am thinking about having our hay guy do it. We'll pay him to cut, rake and bale. I'm thinking that it will be nice to have extra hay and I'm hoping that it may cut some of our hay expenses, even if it's just by a little bit. :)

May. 1, 2011, 06:56 PM
we have done both. And do both now. It was a pain in the butt when we had others do it. On their time table, etc. We finally broke down and bought our own equipment. Let me re-phrase that: my hubby bought his own equipment. And it is a learning curve as to which equipment to use. All have pros and cons. And then there is the maintance of the equipment. He count on a good day or 2 getting everything up and running at the start of haying, and then a couple of days on the down end to get it all cleaned up and such to put it away. And of course we have to have 3 tractors. One for the mower, a smaller one for the rake and a bigger one with a cab for the baler. ;-) And of course the repairs and such while baling since invariably something breaks (at least once).

We are lucky here in OK that we can pretty much cut on day, rake the next and bale the next since it is so dry. But we also will only get 1 or 2 cuttings.

He does cut for other people occassionally but it is a huge PITA. 3 pieces of equipment to haul so that means 3 trips (both ways) moving the equipment. And not knowing what is the field regarding trash, stumps, etc that can damage equipment...And now with diesel at $>4/gallon it gets really pricey to cut for someone else.

If you find someone that works out for you, go for it. Otherwise mow it and buy hay.

Tom King
May. 1, 2011, 09:27 PM
I quit doing it in 1982. We don't have the right micro-climate, being right downwind from a large body of water, in a normally high humidity area in hot weather. It was nearly impossible to ever catch the right conditions long enough to dry it properly. The worrying and watching conditions here was just not worth the effort.

May. 3, 2011, 04:16 PM
Since we have 23 acres and only 1 horse these days, we have our very nice brome mix pastures baled every year. We couldn't possibly use as much hay as we produce so we made a deal with a rancher neighbor to bale our place on shares.

We take care of weed control, he takes care of fertilizing, mowing and baling. We get a specific number of square bales out of it and he bales the rest in rounds for his cattle. This arrangement costs us nothing and it makes our neighbor very happy!

May. 3, 2011, 06:14 PM
There are ups and downs to having someone else do it. The up is time off from work and equipment. The down is that it might not get done when you want it done. Some contract farmers have no vested interest in your crop. Since the guy that now does ours in exchange for part of the crop is a neighboring farmer that has to feed the hay to his own cows he still has a vested interest in doing it right. He doesn't want crappy hay either.

Mary in Area 1
May. 4, 2011, 12:40 AM
We hay about 80 acres and get about 12-15,000 bales from large 1st and 2nd cuts of gorgeous grassy mix hay. We usually do 2-3 fields with a 3rd cutting, but it's hard to get it dry enough when the days get short.

Haying is a HELL of a lot of work, more than I even thought I was capable of doing. But I'm strong and I've surprised myself at how much I can get done. Plus, there is NOTHING that pleases me more than going into winter with a huge supply of really first-quality hay for my horses! :yes:

May. 4, 2011, 09:27 AM
Mary, I couldn't agree more. Hay baling is hellish work but when facing winter, there's nothing better than a jam-packed hay loft :).

Plus, there is no gym membership fee required LOL:lol:!

May. 4, 2011, 10:23 AM
We bale our own. The main reason being so we have enough hay. Squares are harder and harder to come by around here because they're so labor intensive. We would have have been so screwed in that drought year a few years back if we didn't have our own- we baled stuff we normally bush hog- it wasn't the greatest hay for sure, but they ate it and at least they had roughage.

The baler is an oldie but goodie, and DH knows how to keep it running since he grew up on a dairy farm. We've been gradually upgrading equipment, got a disc mower a few years ago when the old haybine was beyond repair. Our original investment in equipment was around $6000, not including the tractor.

We also use a lot of round bales. We cut and rake, and pay a neighbor $8/roll (cheap!!!) to bale- all he does is custom round bale hay in the summer. Normally we call him before we cut a field to see if he'll be available to bale, but he's even come on really short notice (like an hour or two) when it's threatening rain to roll hay that we intended to square bale. I can't justify the cost of a round baler for 80-100 round bales/year.

Honestly, if I didn't have to bale hay, I wouldn't. I want to win the lottery so I can just have all the hay delivered and stacked and never worry about the cost or having enough.

May. 4, 2011, 05:14 PM
Does anyone know anything about either baling your own hay or having a farmer do it for you?

We are able to have our 15 acres cut and baled by a neighbor until our barn gets done. We planted it 3 years ago and it is ready to go again this year. He charges me $2/bale, which is a little high, but beats buying form anyone else! I have been very happy with it and our horses love it!

May. 4, 2011, 11:49 PM
Here's how to make a small fortune in the hay business ...
Start with a large fortune...

I have 10 acres in hay. State Ag helped with a cost share grant to convert crop land. Planting Orchard grass with lime cost $2300 last September. This year, fertilizer $500, weed killer $150, diesel $50, Baler twine $70 Plus a weekend of mechanical work on the $6500 of hay equipment bought last year. (not including tractor)

I worried about the weather, moisture content, hay heating and labor to get it out of the field.

Yield so far : Another year of ag land use tax on the farm plus 70 bales of prime Orchard grass hay cut in the boot stage. So fragrant, I could eat it myself. Likely a second cut if weather cooperates. Total cost...
If it weren't for the tax break, I'd still be buying hay.

May. 5, 2011, 10:11 AM
Haying is tricky business if you don't know what you are doing and if you're not the type that's mechanically inclined. Seems like the equipment doesn't work 1/2 the time and needs a lot of tinkering.

We have a 34-acre farm and have worked out a deal with the local cow farm guy down the road. We get 3 cuttings. The 1st cut we give to him and he usually sells it. The 2nd & 3rd, we slip them a few bucks, plenty of beer and give them any sections we don't want for the horses. Works well for us. Try bartering with the locals!