I've got about 10 or 12 useable acres that I'd like to put into hay at some point fairly soon. I haven't found anyone nearby to plant and cut/bale it for me, but I'm working on it. I've been told not to bother because no one will be interested in doing that little hay, and I've been told the opposite. I've been told I'm better off buying my own and letting someone grow something else on it too. And I've been told someone might do it, but it'll be crap because they'll obviously cut their own hay first. I guess I'm just curious what other people's experiences are with this? I'm in southeast Michigan. Plenty of hay and alfalfa farmers around here, although the major cash crops tend to be feed corn and soybeans.
Any thoughts? Advice?
I have a friend who has 300 acres available and still had lots of trouble finding a farmer willing to haul all his equipment over several times a year to care for, cut and bale that amount of acreage. Most farmers (in our area) who have the equipment are already farming maximum acreage. Unless someone is very local to you (like within a mile or two) it is simply not economical for a farmer to to come and care for the field with all his equipment especially since the acreage is so small.
"My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."
It really depends on a lot of things. Is there a local farmer who is already doing hay but could us a few more acres and is fairly close to your farm? Then if you had a good field, he'd probably be interested because it won't be that much extra work to go do another field if he needs the hay.
If the hay isn't good and there is plenty of nice hay around, then no one will want to make the effort.
I would first concentrate on getting good grass to grow in the field - that means fertilizing and mowing regularly to get the weeds down, maybe even spraying. When you are growing good grass in good quantity, then you can start looking for people to make hay out of it for you.
Where we live in WI, it is rather hilly and the local farmers are "small" dairy farmers used to farming smaller plots of land. We have about 10 acres we "rent" out to the dairy farmer across the road. He is free to put on it what ever he wants, though. We did not find anyone to hay our other 8 acres so we invested in the haying equipment and do it ourselves. It's not really that bad and I can make sure our hay is dry, drier, driest, unwet when we bale. Older hay equipment around here (small balers, old haybines) are relatively cheap and if maintained, will cover their cost in a couple of years (tractor not included).
However, where our families live ("big" farm country) 10 acres is laughable and if someone did rent it (just to compete w/ another guy) - they also wouldn't put hay on it (corn and beans) but I don't think they could even have a tractor/rigs that would turn on the small plots (just kidding, slightly)...
The answer to your question depends on your location. Does a hay farmer have significant distance to move equipment to your field? Ten acres of hay next a large producing hay field is no trouble and desired. 10 acres of old pasture, miles away on busy roads is a PITA. It will be hard to find anybody to cut & bale such a hay field. Much less get it cut at optimum nutrient value.
My 10 acres is on a busy highway miles from producing hay fields. I bought my own equipment...
There is one guy about a mile away who does hay for another barn a bit farther away. He's 78 though, so I don't know how long he's going to want to keep doing it. And he grows his own, so he obviously takes care of his first... that's the other worry.
For people who bought your own equipment - may I ask what one might expect to spend, and what size tractor do you need for such an operation?
The mower and baler are the biggest power-needs. New Holland makes good balers, and has for 40+ years. Ours is a 273 and needs a 40hp tractor that is HEAVY. We also have a big hill in our field - if your field is flat you need less power.
You need to be careful with the newer "compact" tractors because while they are labeled as having sufficient HP, they just aren't beefy enough to do farm work - sort of like hauling a horse trailer . Sure, the F-150 says it can do it, but it really isn't big enough. We have a MF 451 - which is their 50hp Ag tractor. It handles a 6' disc mower and the baler just fine.
You can get used equipment for far less than new (duh) but you have to be careful because most people keep their equipment until it is totally worn out. A new small square baler will run about $25K (which is why in that other thread about sabotaging equipment, those of us who have it went so bananas). You can use a sickle-bar mower , but the disc mowers are far far easier to use. Of course disc mowers are more $$. And the bigger the mower, the fewer passes around the field you have to take so you want the biggest one your tractor can handle.
You can get a new pinwheel rake for less than $1000, but a side delivery rake is a better machine but can still be found used - they have far fewer moving parts and mine is over 50 years old and still doing it's job. I bought my tedder used for $1000 and put $1200 into it about 6 years later. New they are $4-5K for one with 4 wheels.
Spend your money on your tractor, your mower and your baler.
I've got about 10 or 12 useable acres that I'd like to put into hay at some point fairly soon.
the most fair way to all involved parties is a 3-10 year lease at <x> per acre (whatever if fair market there...here it is $50/acre)...
then you as the land owner have money to buy hay with the lease money (should your lands crop fail) and the renter has the knowledge that if he works and improves the land he will benefit from it long term
For such a small acreage you would be better advertising it for someone to lease from you for the hay and either charge them by the bale or sell the lease for a suitable amount. Either that or do a crop-share whereby they get half and you get half.
The problem with trying to get someone to come in and cut/bale it for yourself is that you will definitely be the last one to be dealt with and if your farmer is a little lax then he may not be so picky about when he cuts and bales it as he isn't the one using the hay.
If you are looking to buy machinery, even if it is old machinery, you need to be prepared to pay a number of thousands. An ancient old tractor with enough hp to do haying will set you back around $7k, ancient old haybine around $5k, ancient old baler around $4k, rakes or inverters vary in price, you could pick up ancient rakes for a few hundred dollars but the inverters, even ancient ones, you'll be looking at between $1k-$2k. Put it this way, you won't have much change from $20,000 and if you are going to buy ancient stuff then be aware that you will still have to keep them maintained and should budget accordingly.
We own a hay farm and although we have a lot of fields ourselves we also lease a lot of hay land generally in large packages of 50 acres or so, however we do lease a couple of 10 acre parcels but only because we are friends with the owners of these little fields and because the fields are handy to our farm, otherwise we really wouldn't bother. It's too much trouble to take all the machinery and equipment to fields which are out on their own or far away from our own hay barns. We never cut and bale for someone else to take the hay because we know full well that we are more concerned with getting in our own hay.
You might get a local farmer to come in and do it for you. There are contract hay farmers who do it for other people and you generally pay by the bale. Again though, you are really at the mercy of everyone else who booked him before you did though, so there is no guarantee about the quality of yours by the time it is cut and baled.
And I just have to add that for all the discussion about being "last on the list" or the "Farmer gets his own done first" etc - only in one Harry Potter movie can you be in more than 1 place at a time, and no one maliciously waits to hay so it's lower quality - the farmers want good quality for their stock too! Most will go from place to place based on location. And if you are the newest customer, he may have loyalty to his longer-term ones - which is how you would want to be treated if you were the long-time customer yourself.
It can work out well - just do you homework and know what the plan is before the season starts.