From the Ground Up: Quality Hay Production is Expensive

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 8:14 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - When we think about farmers, particularly here in the Brazos Valley, we normally think about producers who grow cotton and grain, and or maybe even the produce that we find in our local Farmers’ Market. But local ranchers understand that not unlike any of the row crops, quality forage to graze or put up as hay to feed their animals and produce beef requires them to be first and foremost grass farmers. Mike Kristynik grows hay in Brazos County.

“Last fall and winter was kind of dry. It’s always a concern, about the status of our deep moisture, but we got some timely rains in the spring, early spring February and March. And so, our first cutting of hay was really good. Now we’re into second cutting and beginning to see how the dryness from last fall is starting to impact us a little bit. Yields dropped down a little bit but the quality’s really good.”

Kristynik says to grow quality hay, you must do more than keep the cows out of the field.

“Your soil is like a bank account. You keep making withdrawals, eventually, you’re going to have to make some deposits. The fact is, hay is a really expensive commodity if you do it right. Again, going back to last summer, I took my soil test analysis and saw that I needed to correct the pH in the soil. Also, we were low on potassium so it was a good time to put out lime and potash and because of technology that we have now with the pelletized lime, we’re able to blend the fertilizer with it and put it all out in one pass. It was all there last August and then throughout the winter then it started to work down into the soil.”

Early spring brings with it weed pressure.

“So it may take an application of herbicides, or again using the new technology of the herbicide impregnated fertilizer can get two birds with one stone so to speak, put both out at the same time. But that’s an added cost. And then after the first cutting, you have to top-dress it and every time you make a pass on the field it costs you money.”

Add your own equipment expenses, or custom harvesting and you have the annual cost of a hay crop.

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