Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Basic farming activities

Most farmers derive income from either producing and selling products or renting out land or services to other farmers. For the past two years we have fallen more in the renting out side of the equation.

We have had 3rd parties buy alfalfa on the stump and have rented out pasture land for other farmers. Selling on the stump has advantages including the following:

  • No equipment is needed as the 3rd party cuts, bales, and hauls off bales decreasing costs needed to run operation
  • Depending on the contract the seller can minimize risk as the buyer will deal with weather timing issues
  • We have found a buyer will likely come back for future cuttings thus limiting the need to advertise and find a buyer
  • The 3rd party does all the work other than irrigating

Selling on the stump will bring you anywhere between $65 and $120 per short ton (2000 lbs) depending on the quality of hay, the location and which cutting the hay is (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). The second and 3rd cut will give you a better quality hay and will sell for a higher rate but you usually get around 1/3 less hay. Last year we got $85 for the first cut $100 on the stump for our second cut.

We did not go for a 3rd cut. After seeking advice from other farmers (we have a crusty old farming uncle with lots of experience) we’ve heard if you go for a 3rd cut in our locale it dramatically reduces the 1st cut in the following year. The hay doesn’t have enough time to recover that late in the year.

We have thought of a few ways to potentially make more money off of our hay selling.

  1. Invest in some equipment and sell end product
  2. Produce small square bales instead of large square or round bales
  3. Use Fertilizer

All 3 options seem challenging at the moment. We don’t really want to spend too much money on equipment in the short term. Small bales come with a bunch of labor with us not being close enough yet to manage or do ourselves. And we are not too high on using fertilizer. We haven’t figured it out exactly yet but we are very concerned with commercial chemicals and want to keep things natural and organic. I guess you could call us environmentalists, hippies, tree huggers, etc.

Renting out pasture land is pretty straight forward. You get around $20 to $40 per pair of cattle, usually the cow and the calf, per month. The renter takes care of watering, moving pastures, fixing fence when needed, etc. We had about 30 pairs on our place last year and moved the cattle around fairly often which enabled us to use about 60 to 80 acres for about 4 or 5 months.

As the above indicates we have not invested that much time in our farming activities over the past year. Thus performing basic farming activities which is less time intensive than other activities.

Any other activities we could be doing that is less labor intensive?

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