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how best to grow hay for market?

Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
ok, so i have little experience with growing hay, even conventionally, but i am trying to educate my grandfather on how best to grow things in accordance with nature and natures laws
thus far things are going pretty good but one thing i just cant come up with an answer for, simply because i do not know, is how he can go about growing hay for market
i started by thinking, well about the same as these guys do their pastures:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJQhRIKo5rA&feature=related
by planting a large variety of grasses that will help eachother grow and regulate eachother well

what confuses me is that when growing hay for market, the grass is removed and baled, leaving none for mulch/fertilizer the next year, so how is this substainable?
if it is not, as i suspect, how does one go about making it substainable?


he has about 5 acres total and is thinking of using about 4 for hay, with the remaining acre being used for home and backtoeden inspired garden


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Michael Radelut


Joined: Jan 21, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Germany, 7b-ish
    
    1
You're right: It's not sustainable.
Try to stick will Bill Mollison's relayed quote that the only"produce" that you can savely allow to leave your farm is whatever can walk off it.

Have you seen this ?:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6HGKSvjk5Q
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 207
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
    
    1
Fertilizer can be a good thing, just like you taking vitamins or eating vitmin rich food. If your grandfather can move cows on to eat the stubble then plant where the cows were the year before, that might be more to your liking.

If you tie your grandfather's hands with sustainable, you won't be much help to him. You can use your pickup to bring in horse leavings to enrich his fields. Good luck with it all.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Devon Olsen wrote:the same as these guys do their pastures:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJQhRIKo5rA&feature=related
by planting a large variety of grasses that will help eachother grow and regulate eachother well

what confuses me is that when growing hay for market, the grass is removed and baled, leaving none for mulch/fertilizer the next year, so how is this substainable?
if it is not, as i suspect, how does one go about making it substainable?


That was a great video and an hour well spent. So, the answer to your question is in the video. Bring in animals to (mob) graze it! You wont have to plant any grass - watch the video again. At the end, someone asks about how much seed to put down and the answer is none! It'll grow if you graze them right.

Start small. You don't have to move them every hour. Just set up a rotational schedule that your grandfather can handle.


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richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 207
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
    
    1
Seeding will be nessary if it will be devoted to hay and it can't be over grazed. Once grasses are established seeding isn't needed except spotting, if animals are moved out in time. If cattle is kept there as a paddock, it will have to be disked and replanted.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
richard valley wrote:If cattle is kept there as a paddock, it will have to be disked and replanted.


I completely disagree.

If your going for "permaculture" disking/tilling would be quite high on the "thou shalt not" list. Greg Judy (from the video) isn't necessarily a Pc guy but he had great looking paddocks and never disks and even said he doesn't own a tractor! I guess the forage he doesn't stockpile he buys?

Anyway, if done correctly, the animals (cows, sheep, earthworms, dung beetles) do your tilling for you.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 207
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
    
    1
That would be nice but it doesn't work. The thing you are good at you can speak with conviction about. Please, don't be mad but this isn't it.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Not mad, just asking you to explain why you need to disk a paddock? The only time I see people do that here (in VT) is if they're putting corn in. Otherwise it's no till. Those aren't even permaculture farmers. They aren't MOB graziers either. I know lots of shepherds and they don't till either.

I have cows and sheep but I couldn't till even if I wanted to (I'm on ledge).

So why must it be done?
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
Well depending on where you are you might have no problem with hauling hay off. In the Coquille valley growing hay is great and i wouldn't bother with arguing with the folks about hauling it off. but you have to understand why Coquille gets away with it. the valley floods every year and yo get new good clean dirt and muck deposited. since the valley has never needed fertilizer its never been fertilized. Coquille is an exception; if you dont cut your hay as long as the other folks in your area you can take quite a bit off the field. three harvests are hard on the land unless you do a rotation of feed crops. buckwheat, alfalfa, grass, Fava, fallow, should work With 4 acres you can keep one out of rotation for each planting that would leave you with three in a feed and one in a green manure.

Dont till the green manure in just cut it down and let it sit. this will actually benefit you by allowing mulch to build up and protecting the seed yo will be spreading. Do seed it out so you get a really good mix going in the fields (if you have a native mint that would be a good thing to add to the mix.) best idea is to set a bunch of horses out in the field and let them graze it (of go to the local pasture that doesn't add a bunch of weed killer and see what plants the horses are eating while they graze.). this will tell you what plants to put in the hay field and what to omit. the better mix of plants in the hay the more the critters like it.


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richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 207
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
    
    1
If the animals are brought in to the field after cutting but are removed before the established grasses are damaged the field will have been fertilized and the next years crop should be nice and there is no need for anything but water.

Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
ok, about 20 mins into that video michael, thank you for that
only being as far in as i am, it seems the video is about focusing on livestock production rather than producing hay to harvest and sell
if im right about that, which i may not be, how can one apply the principles in this video to producing hay for market?
i want to clarify that by 'substainable' i do NOT mean staying away from any and all fossil fuels, my goal is to get the most output with the minimum input, to do this i have to work smart and not hard, which means i have to figure out a way to come up with marketable hay with the least amount of money, purchased fertilizer, irrigation, weeding and so on
the goal is to supply to a market of unsustainable horse owners/ cattle owners, we may not agree with the way they do things and they may be able to do things cheaper and smarter than the way they are, but while they are doing what they are doing, hay is a very high value crop in our area, i would argue one of the most high value crops
so it makes sense to market it and harvest some of this rich income, the question is only how i may do this as cheaply as possible and without forcing my grandfather to continue working his ass off in the future, prefereably i think his work load should lessen every year if he is doing things correctly...


thanks for all the input everyone, hopefully through much discussion we can come to a good answer that will be of great use...
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 5250
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
208
I'm from a completely different part of the world, but I'm guessing that if you sell hay to 'unsustainable horse owners', they may well have huge manure heaps to get rid of. Why not come to some arrangement so you get the manure back to put on your land? That way there's no net loss of nutrients or biomass.

The only hay I've ever made has been 'meadow hay' which is a mix of whatever grasses are already growing naturally on the land. Traditionally hay meadows in the UK were cut once only and then used later in the year for grazing animals. They were *never* ploughed up and reseeded, which is why ancient meadows are so full of native species and should be protected.

I also believe that in the old systems of land ownership in the UK where tenant farmers had to follow the rules of the lord of the manor, they were never allowed to sell hay as it was known to deplete the land. Any hay produced was to be used only for raising livestock on the farm.


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Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Devon Olsen wrote:...how can one apply the principles in this video to producing hay for market?

...hay is a very high value crop in our area, i would argue one of the most high value crops so it makes sense to market it and harvest some of this rich income, the question is only how i may do this as cheaply as possible and without forcing my grandfather to continue working his ass off in the future, prefereably i think his work load should lessen every year if he is doing things correctly...


First, where are you?

Second, I would still say the answer is in the video. You're sort of in the opposite situation as Greg Judy, so you need to find someone like him to lease your land to. Not for the whole season though. Horses can't eat first cut anyway so if someone paid you to mob graze early on your 2nd cut would be better than if you had done a 1st cut and sold it, or even cut it and let it lay there. Then, toward the end of the season, assuming the forage is tall enough, let the grazier pay you again to fertilize (and by extension reseed) your field.

It shouldn't be that hard to find a mob grazier. Here, in the northeast, every state has some sort of grass farmers group and I'm subscribed to the Vermont Pasturelands Network email list which is a nice resource to have available.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 207
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
    
    1
There is good information in these posts. The part of the country, lay of the land and amount of precip would help much.
We buy hay here in the west we pay $8 for a 3 string bale, feed store sell the same for $16.
Will this stand be irrigated, or can you rely on precipitation. An alternative is pasture. Pasture areas can be rented and animals
rotated for pasture recuperation.

kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
I think that where you are located makes a huge difference. I grew up in a ranching area in SW Oregon, lived in the willamette valley for a while, colorado and now in western pennsylvania each was very different as far as raising hay for use and sale. In Oregon and Colorado irrigating was very nessecary and typically somewhat expensive, I remember doing pipe changes morning and evening for three monthes out of the season growing up, where here I have yet to see a rainbird in a field. Typically what i remember in Oregon was alfalpha and clover mixes where about every 5 years you plowed and reseeded as the clover took over the fields or just decent hay stands. One thing that I will say is that with only 4 acres you might have a hard time finding anyone who will want to mess with cutting, raking and baling such a small field. The other thing is around here square bales, 2 strand, only sell for $1-2.00 a bale depending on how much you buy, buy the whole field $1.00 a bale off field the day it is baled; 4x4 round bales even now in winter are only $35.00 if stored inside, cheaper if they have been out in the field all winter. I typically would get 2 cuttings and on 4 acres I would hope to get maybe 60-80 square bales a cutting. That is only about $300-350 for the hay and then you have to have someone cut and bale it out of that. So unless you are in an area where things are very different, 4 acres does not have much potential for income from hay. Now if you were in Colorado you could make more in your bedroom closet producing medical pot. But hey I could be full a what comes out of the south end of a north bound bull.
kent


Kent
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
his land is located in duschane, ut (not sure if that spelling is right or not)
zone 5a i believe
last time i bought hay with him for his three or four horses he had at the time, we spent well over 1K dollars and it lasted like three months or something rediculous like that(been a few years now) so im


what kent is saying makes some sense to me, he may find it more profitable to produce other cops with his four acres but if he decides hay is what he wants to do then i'd like to know how i may teach him to do so in a smart way, and i would like to know myself so that in the future i can produce hay if i find it cost effective in an area with larger fields
and im pretty sure he isnt going to be anything but close-minded about the pot idea regardless lol, though it is true that MJ is one of the highest value crops one could grow, that wont do us much good in this instance

i like the idea of working out taking manure off the hands of customers, could give them a discount if they use it or could even charge them extra to deliver hay and remove manure...

brain isnt thinkin too clear right now so more questions as they come...
Roman Milford


Joined: Feb 18, 2012
Posts: 24
What I've done is this. I have an 80 acre property, with about 50 acres cleared hay fields. It's 4 hours away, so I only get up to it a few times a summer. A neigboring farmer cuts the hay off my cleared fields, and my arrangement with him is he gets to keep the hay for free, and also keeps an eye on the property for me. I will eventually set up a permaculature farm on the property, but in the meantime I have someone there that maintains and looks after the property.

Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Utah.
That puts things in a considerably different light. It may not be possible to grow hay in Utah "sustainably." I don't know for sure but it could explain why the price is so high.

I would like to point out that there seems to be an opportunity for "hay arbitrage." If you can really buy hay for $1 a bale in PA and then sell it for $8 a bale (I think Tyler from TX mentioned that price) well, that'd be the way to go, esp. if you had a commercial license and could rent a tractor trailer.

As for those acres your grandfather has... take a look around and see what can be grown sustainably and go with that.
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
i think the answer to this was to be found in a recent podcast as well as the posts that were posted here, simply have multiple plots and only harvest from one plot a year, rotating so that each plot can recover and fertilize itself before you come back to it years later...
Roman Milford


Joined: Feb 18, 2012
Posts: 24
Devon Olsen wrote:i think the answer to this was to be found in a recent podcast as well as the posts that were posted here, simply have multiple plots and only harvest from one plot a year, rotating so that each plot can recover and fertilize itself before you come back to it years later...


So would the fields that aren't harvested that season still be cut, or just left to go to seed and die back?
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
left to die back from what i gathered in the podcast, were i doing the hayfeild this year i would probably be studying this more closely and have a definite answer but i think its left to seed and die back...
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3235
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
That wouldn't work here (North East) for sure! Without mowing/grazing succession would start and in 5-10 years you wouldn't recognize it as pasture.
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
perhaps the podcast did call for grazing then... i only half listen while i do other things so im not certain what it said
Frank Turrentine


Joined: Nov 12, 2012
Posts: 70
    
    1
The guys at the feed store where I bought my scythe the other day would like me to grow clover for them on part of the farm. I'm not fundamentally opposed to doing a little of that for a while, if for no other reason than it will give me practice making hay with the scythe, bring in a small income and also give me some documentation to buttress my application for an ag exemption. However, I see it as something of a transitional effort on the road to simply keeping it all on site.

I've already got a healthy crop of vetch in some places that comes up every spring and dies off when the weather gets too hot. The guys at the feed store are offering to give me clover seed, if I'll sell them the hay from it. I have about five or six acres of open pasture at the front of the farm, uphill from everything else on the gentle slope that exists from the road down to the banks of the river. There is an additional acre or so between the house/garden and the back road that dead ends on our river acreage, and I could seed that as well. Currently, there is a pretty healthy crop of Bermuda and Johnson grass that grows in both places.

I'm not particularly interested in raising cattle; we did that in the past on three paddocks between those two pastures, but they were only for dad to have animals to look at and me to take care of, and the expense and trouble of animals that size/cost is something I'd prefer to avoid at this point. What I would like to aim for is sheep and goats that I can move from place to place, from the front pasture - after I fence it off into two or three distinct areas - through the three paddocks and back into the back pasture. I prefer mutton to beef in any case.

My understanding is that one man can scythe and work about one acre of hay per day, ideally. I know I can simply broadcast the clover seed, or I could get one of those backpack outfits and does it as well. I'm completely unclear about how to bale it for market without machinery, and perhaps the guys at the store are thinking they'll send out a baler or something. I'd prefer to be old school about it, however, if possible. I've seen one of the scything vids where the guy makes haystacks on-site and covers them with a tarp, and I can see doing that, but not for selling bales. I guess I'm just looking for additional learning resources in this regard. I'm willing to scrap the idea entirely and opt for rotational grazing and haystacks on site with my farm income deriving from sale of meat and produce instead. But hay is a big deal in Parker County and easily comprehended by the taxing authorities, more so than my permie daydreams would be.
philip Wick


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 11
I am in a like situation. The farm is 12 acres in ct, part of a 80 acre farm that was dairy until the early 1960s. I make a little hay on about 3/4 of the land (remainder is wood lot) and a couple of acres of adjacent land trust land that I have life use of. In my experience, without animals, you need to practice fallow periods as well as rotations where green manures are rotated through the land. I've had good luck discing down weedy, run down fields and planting nurse crops (winter rye or oats) with Timothy, fescue and medium red clover and alfalfa. I get some income from the straw(runs $5.00 a two string bale here, sometimes more) and a like amount for good quality 1-2nd cutting). I will sometimes cut, at end of summer, the hay on the field and let it rot; seems to enrich the soil.
Anyone who thinks that hay is a path to wealth probably needs to do more homework; unless you have a full contingent of equipment--tractor(s), mowers, Tedder, rake, baler, etc--you won't make much money. I use a bunch of old two cylinder tractors that aren't too bad but even so, they don't sip gas. Plus, you need to keep everything going. Lots of hard work which I do mostly to keep the fields neat and to work outside in comparison with my office job.
Mary Lou McFarland


Joined: Nov 15, 2012
Posts: 17
The first question to ask is... what animal are you going to market this hay for? If you are selling to people with cattle then what they want around here is alfalfa and preferably in big bales. For horses, most want a straight grass hay in small squares. Alfalfa can be too rich for sheep and goats too. A little alfalfa can be good so maybe you just want to overseed.

I have horses so I am trying to get my hayfield into producing some good straight grass hay. It had been seeded to a standard crp mix, probably 25 years ago and then left neglected. All that is left is a lot of bad brome, poison parsnip and queen Ann's lace. We have been keeping it mowed and are now getting ahead of the weeds. I have started with some manure teas that I mix with fish emulsion, molasses, epsom salts, and bone meal. I haven't been able to afford a sprayer yet so have just been hauling the tea out in tubs in the back of the pick up and tossing it willy-nilly. Not perfect but better then nothing. I am wanting to save up some money for lime.

I understand the idea of disking. It was explained to me that you don't want to set it deep and you don't want to turn over anything. But it opens the ground like aeration and makes a place for seed to go, if you are overseeding an existing hayfield. It will also allow more moisture to get into the soil *if* you accomplish it in spring. It is something you want to do before you seed or feed.

Then there is the question of the grass types. It isn't just the grass itself and the nutrients but whether or not it has endophyte issues, etc. Most grasses are pushed because they are what the industrial cattle market can use. I will be going old school and seeding some orchard grass to start and slowly work at complimenting that. Hopefully as I fix the soil the native grasses will return. They are now even questioning health issues of clover for horses. But my good news is that I already have someone I can direct market to if I can get my grass up to par.

My BIG picture is to put a hedge row/ forest garden completely around my hayfield so that i have the best of both worlds. Composted waste from the horses and garden will all end up on the hayfield and that is more then enough garden to keep me busy as the hayfield is right around 22 acres. My pasture will be handled differently. Because of the hoof wear and tear, bunch grasses will be discouraged and I want to try to seed pasture to a combination of buffalo grass and bluegrass. Both are sods but don't get the height on them that most hay grass requires. I also need to start importing earth worms. I don't know exactly what all my land has endured, but even after three enlistments in the crp program the worms have not returned. I need to jump start that process.

Of course there is that caveat that I could be totally wrong, but after three years of cleaning up weeds, cutting thistle, mowing, picking up handfuls of soil and spending a lot of time starring at grass, this is the plan that I have come up with.

Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 410
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
An old thread but a wonderfully informative one!

Before I got sick I was seriously considering hay and cattle. This is what I learned.

When a plant is cut, then the plant no longer needs all of those roots, so they let them die back. As the roots decompose they add nutrients and humus to the soil. The plant will then re-grow, it can be cut again, and the cycle repeats itself.

By growing a mixture of grass and legumes, the root material that breaks down will then nourish the plants better.

And, a good deal of the energy comes from the sun.

Will this be enough fertilization? It depends partly on how often you cut the vegetation. A lawn which is often mowed never does grow and then cast off very much root material, and it needs a lot of fertilizer to stay green in many areas. If you cut your hayfield less often there might be enough fertility, but it might not. I believe that unless the manure was put back on the field the farmer would have to keep a very sharp eye on the soil fertility. Where I live the clay soil tends to hold on to fertility while a sandy soil probably will not. I know that even on our clay soils an increase in production occurs after fertilization, but even without fertilization the soil is reasonably productive. Then again I live in the breadbasket of the nation and this soil grows grass like no other place that I have seen: If grain is taken off the land MUST be fertilized, but if hay is taken of the land will only benefit from being fertilized.

Our ancestors would usually keep some stock for the use of the farm family: milk and other perishables needed to be produced on the farm because they had little refridgeration, and town was hours away. So, every year they had a manure pile to get rid of. They very often scattered it in the fields, which is actually a very good practice.

Equipment: 1 acre a day was for a skilled scyther, not a beginner, and I have no idea how much practice is needed to get good. However a walk behind sicle bar mower CAN costs between $1000 and $2000, but I have no idea how long they last. Good tools last but poor ones break down. Hay can be turned and windrowed by hand if you are healthy and you only have 4 acres.

Balers. Yes. That is the rub, isn't it? The walk behind balers make SMALL round bales, and I have not figured out how salable those little round bales are. And the equipment needed for that is not cheap: a used tractor might be better.

That is as far as I got in my studying on the matter, as I got sick. I am not really up to working in the hot sun anymore: that is why I have shifted my focus to things that I can do with less effort, such as raising things that my household can consume, like fruits and vegetables and flowers and eggs.
 
 
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