Should You Grow Your Own Hay?

Many farmers and ranchers with adequate acreage often explore the option of growing hay for feeding cows, sheep, or horses. If you are considering growing your own hay, there are many considerations when determining whether the decision is the smart choice. A sound method to validate opinion is to measure risk versus reward. By examining the pros and cons of each alternative, you can make an informed decision.

Analyze the following advantages and disadvantages of growing your own hay. Ponder the following questions and scenarios. Assign a measure of importance to each topic. Weigh each point carefully. And as to whether you should “do-it-yourself”, the answer should become clearer.

Disadvantages of Growing your Own Hay

Fertilizer cost: Fertilizer costs are volatile. Multiple applications of nutrients are necessary to increase yield. Weighing the cost of effective fertilization techniques against the value of increased hay production should factor into your decision.

Weather: Cutting hay requires dry weather. A rainy growing season will curb the ability to cut and bale. Even if you have the means to grow, cut and bale hay, you may still have to purchase hay if Mother Nature does not cooperate.

Equipment: While acquiring used baling equipment can be a sound investment, this purchase poses risk. Mechanical failures are frequent with used machinery, and finding used parts for repair is difficult.

Storage space: Hay fed to cows as feed can be baled and left in fields, but hay fed to horses must be stored inside and kept dry. Do you have adequate storage space? Or is expansion necessary?

Time value: Your time is valuable. Does cutting hay provide the best use of your resources? Or is your time better served elsewhere?

Advantages of Growing Your Own Hay

Cost savings: Overall, growing your own hay is theoretically less expensive than paying someone else. When you consider profit margin or agreements where cutters retain part of the yield, outsourcing has an extra layer of cost which you will not incur.

Quality control: Through prudent crop management, you can control the quality of the hay produced. Superior products command superior prices. Hay which is rich in nutrients produces healthier, more viable livestock. Proper planning will ensure that you harvest before hay becomes overripe.

Pasture management: Even if the crop lacks nutritional value, removing the hay keeps pastures groomed, paving the way for future crops of greater quality. Using or selling the hay for bedding is an option.

Self-satisfaction: Finding reliable sources to bale hay is often difficult. And timely harvesting is vital. Completing tasks yourself allows you control over timing and quality. And it has been said that anything worth doing is worth doing yourself.