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Year 2-3. Have the animals, but spending nearly 1k for hay.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 58
Location: Westboro, WI Zone 3.5
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Hi all,
Homesteading has been very good to us.  We've processed chickens, ducks, goats and pigs.  We've hatched chicks and helped birth a couple of heifers.  We feel we've learned a lot in the past few years.  Currently we have 4 cows (two of them are new heifers) a feeder pig ready to butcher this fall.  about 50 chickens for butcher this fall and close to 20 ducks...and a goat. 

I was hoping for a male calf to be born but that's life.  Anyways  I come to you with this:

I will spend close to 1k this year on hay for feed and bedding.   For me that is the tipping point to where I need to start making my own hay.  It is quite an investment but I have about 15 or so acres that I just grows big all summer long and dies in the winter and it makes me sick not utilizing it for hay.

I figure purchasing a tractor, cutter, rake and baler would be horribly expensive (let me know if I'm wrong on this).  So I'm looking for alternative.  Scything is out of the question as we are middle aged and the though of spending a week of cutting, raking and baling by hand makes me faint. 

Opinions welcomed.

Thanks,
Onyx.
 
Posts: 90
Location: Minnesota
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I would say there are a few things to do/try befor purchasing all the hay making equipment.

1. Are there any farmers in the area that make hay? If so check what it would cost for them to make bales for you on your own land. Large bales are cheaper than small balles (this year I got small bales at $1 a bale)

2. What would it take to fence some or all of that land? I'm f you fence it you can have cattle in it later into the year decreasing your feed costs. I think it is Greg Judy that does a lot of this type of cattle raising. I would really look at it. I have also listened to a podcast where a person in Alberta was letting his cattle eat grass all winter long (and some large bales) so it should be possible for most people to figure out a way to do it.

Honestly I would look at a combination of these 2 methods to extend your grazing period reducing your cost of feed.
 
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Damian Jones wrote:Hi all,

I figure purchasing a tractor, cutter, rake and baler would be horribly expensive (let me know if I'm wrong on this).  So I'm looking for alternative.  Scything is out of the question as we are middle aged and the though of spending a week of cutting, raking and baling by hand makes me faint. 

Opinions welcomed.

Thanks,
Onyx.



Hallo,
Is there a opportunity to rent these machines in your area?
Regards,
F.
 
Posts: 7
Location: Central VA
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Try looking for someone who will hay the property for you. 10 acres is usually the point where someone will bother hauling the equipment over so if you have 15 decent acres, it's worth a shot. Every area has their own traditions but 60/40 (60% going to them) is a typical split of the hay. If you don't have any neighbors that you know or trust, try asking around at the local tractor place or looking around social media (lots of our local hay guys advertise on FB, including for cutting services). This can backfire sometimes - it's often easier said than done, and you can get caught up in the equipment problems of others, and their own fields take priority.
 
Damian Jones
Posts: 58
Location: Westboro, WI Zone 3.5
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Bernard Welm wrote:I would say there are a few things to do/try befor purchasing all the hay making equipment.

1. Are there any farmers in the area that make hay? If so check what it would cost for them to make bales for you on your own land. Large bales are cheaper than small balles (this year I got small bales at $1 a bale)

2. What would it take to fence some or all of that land? I'm f you fence it you can have cattle in it later into the year decreasing your feed costs. I think it is Greg Judy that does a lot of this type of cattle raising. I would really look at it. I have also listened to a podcast where a person in Alberta was letting his cattle eat grass all winter long (and some large bales) so it should be possible for most people to figure out a way to do it.

Honestly I would look at a combination of these 2 methods to extend your grazing period reducing your cost of feed.



We're relatively new to the area and it will take a couple of generations to get to a status where I would feel comfortable even asking let along borrowing someone's equipment.  I'm paying 2.25 a small bale now and 35 for a large round bale.

We contain our cows with electrical fencing and it works great.  We do an intensive grazing method which has really kept the flies at bay.

I live is central Wisconsin and due to the amount of snow on the ground in winter hay is our only hope.

Thanks for the response.
 
Damian Jones
Posts: 58
Location: Westboro, WI Zone 3.5
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Sunny Aldrinos wrote:Try looking for someone who will hay the property for you. 10 acres is usually the point where someone will bother hauling the equipment over so if you have 15 decent acres, it's worth a shot. Every area has their own traditions but 60/40 (60% going to them) is a typical split of the hay. If you don't have any neighbors that you know or trust, try asking around at the local tractor place or looking around social media (lots of our local hay guys advertise on FB, including for cutting services). This can backfire sometimes - it's often easier said than done, and you can get caught up in the equipment problems of others, and their own fields take priority.



I will look into that.  Thanks
 
Damian Jones
Posts: 58
Location: Westboro, WI Zone 3.5
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Fred Fisher wrote:

Damian Jones wrote:Hi all,

I figure purchasing a tractor, cutter, rake and baler would be horribly expensive (let me know if I'm wrong on this).  So I'm looking for alternative.  Scything is out of the question as we are middle aged and the though of spending a week of cutting, raking and baling by hand makes me faint. 

Opinions welcomed.

Thanks,
Onyx.



Hallo,
Is there a opportunity to rent these machines in your area?
Regards,
F.



I didn't think of that, but it makes sense.  I'll check around.  Thanks.
 
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I'm curios as to why you do not fence and graze this 15 acres. Is there a reason?

I get the expense. I'd been feeding my birds for ages. Then I finally just decided to start letting them out. Feed costs dropped dramatically. Try it!
 
Damian Jones
Posts: 58
Location: Westboro, WI Zone 3.5
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elle sagenev wrote:I'm curios as to why you do not fence and graze this 15 acres. Is there a reason?

I get the expense. I'd been feeding my birds for ages. Then I finally just decided to start letting them out. Feed costs dropped dramatically. Try it!



All my animals free range....Believe me when I tell you I'm one of the cheapest guys on the planet, but when the snow it 4ft deep I have to pay money to feed the lot of them   The cows are one an intensive grazing schedule where we move the electric fences about once a week.  We also provide hay in their stall at night.  In the morning we milk the cows and then stake out the calves in the fence off area.  Works pretty slick as I don't even have to turn on the electricity any more because the cows stay close to the calves.    It only takes an hour to re-fence and the cows are happy for the new lush grass.

The  chickens and ducks get a morning feeding and then they fend for the themselves...and it cuts down on the grasshoppers like crazy.


Onyx
 
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Don't take this the wrong way, but welcome to farming.

No matter how many animals you have, you are indeed right; they must be fed, and so the next question is, how to do that efficiently. It is different for different people for sure, and varies from farm to farm. I have 120 acres of open land and I can't even justify the ridiculous cost of haying equipment today; new or used!!

The best thing you can do is make the field attractive to haying contractors or neighbors. If you have a field that is rough, overgrown with Smooth Bedstraw, Queenannes Lace, Milk Weed or other undesirable plants, they are not going to want to come and hay your field for any split. I have quality fields and while some tried to do a 3/4 for them, 1/4 for me split, I talked them into 50/50 which is reasonable due to the acreage, smoothness, quality and fertilized aspect of things.

If it is still unattractive, you can get your own equipment, but I encourage you to look outside the box. When I first started and only had a few sheep I humbled myself and walked around corn fields picking up the ears of corn that the combines knocked off. You would be amazed at how much they miss. Big ears of corn being batted around at 6 mphs tend to fall down and I would get a Kubota bucket full for ever acre I perused. I also cut standing corn, ran it through my chipper and fed my sheep that way. A modified hand lawn mower works just as good and many animals excel on corn silage as a feed. (Sheep, goats, cows and even horses).

You can also do loose hay. You typically cannot rent haying equipment, but you can rent sickle bar mowers!! You might be middle aged and cannot use a scythe, but what about walking around behind something that is self-propelled? Knock your hay down with that, see if you can get a neighbor to rake it into wind rows, or buy a cheap used rake yourself, and then scoop it up and make hay mounds with it. (Note I did not say rake the hay by hand, I tried that when I first started and it was the worst part of the job!).

Myself, I will NEVER get haying equipment even though like you, I cannot winter-graze. You can however extend the shoulder seasons deeply into winter. Every week you delay starting in late fall, and graze earlier in early Spring saves hay. Winter rye makes an excellent means in which to extend grazing. As long as the ground is not frozen it grows, and stays green under the snow that livestock will clear snow for. You have to carefully do the math on the cost of seed, about $40/acre, but how many $35 bales of hay will that save you? Instead of haying equipment, I am going to eventually get into silage. It takes less equipment, is faster, does not require a storage building and is not weather dependent. You have to be on top of your game to get the proper nutrition to the animals, but considering a hay baler costs $18,000 used and a silage chopper is $18,000 brand new, it is easy to make that decision.

 
Travis Johnson
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One thing I noted was that you were disappointed in that you had a heifer instead of a bull calf; why is that? Around here a heifer calf is worth more money if you sell it, and taste just as good if you eat it for yourself. I grew up on a dairy farm and we lived on Holstein Dairy Cows. The worst part was, we only ate the old, decrepit ones, and the worst tasting beef is from animals that are not thriving.

On my commercial sheep farm I am looking for ewe-lambs as I am trying to grow my flock, but ram lambs pay better if I sell them.

For you...assuming its a homestead, I will assure you this. You are only 2-3 years into it and may not know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with culling the ole flock a bit to take a bite out of the feed bill and replan your plan. It does not mean you will always stay at lowered numbers, but cutting back, getting by, then restarting again when the feed plan is better established, is not something to be ashamed of. I have done it many times over the years. Animal numbers ebb and flow on a farm and there is nothing wrong in ensuring you can afford to fed, or have the feed to feed your animals; its proper animal husbandry.

BTW: Dairy cows are NOT terribly bad tasting beef, in fact for 8 straight years Jersey Cows won the best tasting beef challenge. Number two for just as many years was Holstein. The dairy breeds actually taste better than the beef breeds, it is just that they do not have the "conversion" that cattlemen want. That is, the farmers pay money for feed that goes to their bony structures instead of meat. However the dairy breeds marble the meat better. It is not what you hear regarding Angus Beef, but it is just a very effective marketing ploy. About 14% of the beef on shelves is actually Holstein from culled dairy herds.
 
Bernard Welm
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Location: Minnesota
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Damian,

I love in central Minnesota so I get the snow and cold. I also just moved to my farm 3 years ago. I do not have a tractor or any large machinery so I do everything by hand.

I have an 4 acre field that has been used for hay for many years. All 3 years I have talked to the neighbors and gotten it cut. Now there is a cost for the cutting but mostly I have been able to trade some hay for the cutting and some hay for me. Most farmers are friendly and willing to help the new farmer (at least if you show you are working hard to improve the land). So I would really suggest calling/talking to your neighbors and asking who in the area does haying (small or large bales different people do different sizes or times).

I had a few contacts say no I don't want to bale anyone else's hay but most said here is another person you could try.
 
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Those heifers are a lot more valuable than a bull.  You can rent a bull for a week -- or hopefully borrow one from a neighbor for a week or two -- and that heifer will increase your herd, whereas bulls are basically only good for one week a year, unless you turn him into a steer.

Are you familiar with Gabe Brown of Bismark ND?  Youtube him.  Watch his stuff on mob grazing.  The concept isn't his -- it's been out there for some time, but he's someone I really appreciate.  With a minimal investment in a electric fencing system, you'd be able to graze your small herd far longer into the winter than you might imagine.  He's got his stock out there 10.5 months a year -- some years more.  As he says, "We're not running a bed and breakfast here.  God gave them four legs for a reason."  If you grow your grass tall enough, it'll be sufficient for the cattle to find even when the snow gets deep.

When you mob stock, the land only gets grazed 2 times a year, yet you get so much more bio-mass.  And it's tremendously good for soil health.  High density stocking concentrates all the poop and pee in a small area, while the animals crush down half the bio-mass to armor the soil and feed the micro-herd.

Joel Salatin is another one to check out (assuming you're not familiar with mob grazing -- you probably are).  He mob stocks his cattle, and then chases them 3 days later with his egg-mobile -- a large chicken tractor on wheels for about 300 birds.  They process the cow patties and turn the fly larva into eggs.

Good luck with your growing herd.
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I am in a similar boat here in south Louisiana. We have heat waves that stunt grass growth and 'mud months' where the grass is growing or during winter when the grass isn't either way you face the killing of grass caused by heavy hooved animals trampling around in a month long of rain. I have found that my small group of sheep (2) do well on silage. My chicken coops, hog pens and things like that I use mostly trash hay. The horses are the main expense I haven't gotten away from but I am lucky and it really is only a big issue for about 3 months a year.

I have found it amazing how much trash hay is saved but putting tarps under my bale area. I use old metal fire wood stands to put the hay on and put tarps under with the front rolled out to catch what is spilled while handling the hay as it is put out for the horses only a quarter square bale at a time. Any hay with dirt or whatever goes in the trash hay pile.

I am experimenting with silage using my mower and so far is working pretty good, though I am slowly introducing it to my sheep, pigs and chickens. I am not giving it to the horses because there I is a lot of research showing links to colic.
I follow a method detailed in an article I found in Small Farm- a Canadian magazine. The article is very interesting and outlines this mower technique. 
http://smallfarmcanada.ca/2014/making-forage-on-a-very-small-scale/
hope this link works. If not look up the magazine and search Making forage on a (very) small-scale

hope this helps you out
 
Travis Johnson
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I have more than experimented with silage, I had my commercial flock of sheep thrive on silage only for a few years. It is really an excellent cheap feed for sheep (just as it is for dairy cows). There are a ton of reasons to switch to silage with cost being one off them, and my sheep nutritionist approved it. For me, I kept my sheep on a 60% grass silage/40% corn silage ration with supplemental grain at 1/4 pound per sheep per day with mineral mix of course, and they did well.

I have hay now only because of a deal I made with my cattle dealer who uses some fields of mine, but in a few years when I want to get my own forage equipment, it will be to make haylage/corn silage and not hay.

(Note: lambs do however need hay due to their smaller rumens and nutritional needs).
 
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