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Old 04/07/13, 11:08 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: GA
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How much is my hay field worth?


The property I farm is located in the western part of Georgia and it has about ~35 acres in pasture. It has been cut for hay for the past twenty plus years. Currently the deal I have with a neighbor is that he cuts it and keeps the hay for his cows in return for bush hogging the rest of the property 3 times a year. However last year he only ended up doing about 3 hours of bush hogging because I'm using more and more of the land for my animals. Clearly we need to renegotiate, but I don't know how much it's worth so I don't know what to ask for. I cannot cut the hay myself, but it would be fine if it didn't get cut for a year or so meaning there's no need to rush.

Some special considerations:
1) We are working towards being Certified Naturally Grown so no spraying or commercial fertilization would be allowed.

2) The larger part of the field is accessible over a bridge which is stronger than it looks - it has handled plenty of farm equipment in the past, but makes people nervous to look at.

3) The last cut would need to be made no later than early September in order to allow for some decent regrowth before frost. I want to do this in order to build the soil up and reduce runoff.

4) I only need 10 bales or so for myself so a 50/50 split wouldn't work.

The grass isn't particularly good, there are about 15-20 acres in bermuda and the rest in various stuff I don't know. The ph is about 5.5 and no lime has been applied in years.

What would you charge? What sort of deals have you seen worked out in similar situations?
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Old 04/07/13, 11:14 AM
Join Date: Sep 2011
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Around here, 35 acres would get you around 3,000 bales ( small square ) per season. Poor to fair quality hay going at around $2-$2.50 per bale, so $6000 potential market hay. He has to bale it, run his tractor, spend his time, etc.. IDK maybe $1500 or so? Thats a very conservative estimate IMO.
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Old 04/07/13, 11:20 AM
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You are giving away your place a bale at a time a do not realize it. If you plan on going natural you need to be building your fertility starting now. The PH needs to be improved and I am sure you are short on nitrogen. It is time to plant legumes to build nitrogen and encourage earthworms to aid in improving the PH and water absorption. The organic matter is no doubt lacking and microbes need to be encouraged. Working hard to improve the land will take not less than 3 years to get to where you need to be if you want to wean the place from commercial products.
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Old 04/07/13, 11:33 AM
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Darntootin - good to know. They've always done big round bales and I guess they sell them for +$20 - I know I would not consider the hay top quality by any means and top quality round bales go for $40 around here depending on the time of year.

agmantoo - oh I realize it A big reason to renegotiate it is to correct those problems with more careful management. Part of that has been research - including reading my way though the mega rotational grazing thread in the cow forum - very helpful stuff. What sort of legumes would you recommend? I was thinking crimson clover ( there is annual vetch, but I don't think it's contributing much). I saw from the rotational grazing thread that you are in GA too, do you think I could get organic chicken litter spread in my area?
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Old 04/07/13, 11:39 AM
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With the restrictions you list, you're getting a pretty good deal now.
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Old 04/07/13, 01:10 PM
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Location: Eastern North Carolina
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I only need 10 bales or so for myself so a 50/50 split wouldn't work.
It's EASY to sell hay.
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Old 04/07/13, 02:09 PM
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What is your plan for non-commercial fertilization?
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Old 04/07/13, 03:59 PM
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A 1600 bale here runs round $60/80ea THIS TIME OF YEAR.
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Old 04/07/13, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
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What you need is a program to raise the fertility and the ph of your field to make it worth more.

Currently you are hauling off nutrients and decreasing the worth of your land. Simply mowing early and letting it grow in fall is a pointless thing, as far as improving your ground. You need a real program.

Since you are organic, you need to work with organic products, but there are good sources of lime, P, and K that will work to improve your ground and be listed organic.

Manure is on the top of the list, and will replace the micro nutrients your field is also missing. 20 years of hay making has given you a poor field, no question, not worth much.

The low ph will hurt your crop, with a low ph the crop nutrients get bound up to your soil particles and the roots cannot pry them loose.

If you continue on the path you are on, the deal you have is pretty good. You have several restrictions that do not allow someone to harvest a good crop over the long term.

If you start a program of improving your soil, the hay will be better and better, yield more and more bales, and both your hay cutter and you will get more back in return.

Since you are limiting several options a hay grower would have, I don't think you can charge a certain dollar a out per acre. That isn't fair to the guy baling. You are limiting what he can grow.

A crop share is the only fair way to go.

As things are, with you putting no effort to care for or improve the ground, I would expect a 25-75 split of the hay, with you getting 25, the fella doing the work getting 75 percent of the hay.

If you start improving your land, then closer to a 50-50 split would work well for both of you. Also split the fertilizer, perhaps you pay for the lime, and you split the fertilizer 50-50 also.

It should be easy for you to sell the hay, or just sell it to the person who bales it. Some years you will get more or less hay, some years a bale will be worth more or less.

But over the long haul. Both of you share in the risks and rewards of adding lime, fertilizing, and managing your pasture to reach its full potential.

With the restrictions you put on it, it would appear you don't want to spend a dime on it, and I would just walk away from any sort of cash rent for the acres. I would feel you are trying to rob your own soil, and me in the process.

I don't mean to be mean about it, just an honest view in the black and white world of an Internet forum.

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Old 04/08/13, 08:27 PM
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Thanks everybody for the info - plenty to think about for long term planning. In terms of cutting the field I think my next step will be to talk to people who might be interested and see what they're willing to agree to.
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Old 04/08/13, 10:13 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: N E Washington State
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I don't know much about land in your area, but the fields would not be worth much. The land is in poor condition, and you aren't sure what is growing on a lot of it. Getting the land in good shape and replanting hay would be expensive, and it sounds like a short term deal. Using what is there might not pay for the fuel to make it.

The bridge could be a problem, will it hold large equipment? You would not want people picking up hay out of the field. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I'm sure we would not be interested, unless you were willing to pay for getting the field back in good condition.
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Old 04/09/13, 05:35 AM
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Location: Ontario
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We do hay on over 150 acres of other people's land. We don't pay anything for it.
That is the value of hay land around here. They are happy that we keep their land clean and neat and that we reseed and fertilize as needed.

We sign their property tax form which allows them to claim that they are part of a legitimate active farm operation. This saves them several thousand dollars a year in taxes.
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Old 04/09/13, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2011
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Hey, I'd like to get in on some of that "free worthless hay" up here, that isn't worth the effort of bailing! lol. Around here, and everywhere I've lived, nobody gives you free land to hay and even poor quality hay sells.

Its funny but whenever you have something, people will tell you it isn't worth anything. But whenever you need something, then they tell you the cost is too high. I think people defeat themselves sometimes..
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Old 04/09/13, 07:09 AM
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Or, seeing that the price of hay and the quality of it varies (what if you experience a draught or too much rain?), it might be best to negotiate a cash lease....around here it's about $40 per acre. You can always have a clause in it to consider hay as payment instead, depending on the year....that way you are not going to get stuck with poor quality hay, particularly if the farmer slacks off and bales the hay when it's damp, and you end up with mouldy hay.

Do not discount the fact that just because someone is a farmer, means that they are a good one.....we once had a farmer do our hay and he baled it wet....we ended up dumping half of it. And he has done hay for 40+ yrs.
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Old 04/09/13, 07:21 AM
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Location: Northern Michigan (U.P.)
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Up here, you can fence your fields and provide fresh water and a water trough and you can rent your land for summer grazing. It pays about enough to pay off your property taxes. The added bonus is it keeps the brush out.
If you don’t want to fence it, you can give it away for hay. That keeps the brush out, too. Generally includes brush hogging around the edges of the field. If it is real good hay, you might get the guy to till up a third of it every ten years or so and plant timothy and clover.
But I have seen guys try to get a bigger pay off for their land and the farmer walks away. A year left uncut and the dead grass is in next year’s hay, so no one wants it and in a few years the willow and other brush take over and it never produces a crop again.
I’ve seen guys move up here, buy an 80 acre hay field and expect big rewards from selling “standing hay”. Soon they are begging for someone to take the hay before it all goes to weeds.
Your field needs lime and fertilizer. Unless you have a source for chicken manure, any manure you add will also bring tons of weed seeds. Just spreading it on top of the hay field isn’t good. Seems you need to get to a place where you can till up the soil, spread three tons of ground lime (calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate) per acre. It comes from the earth and is organic. Add 4 tons of composted (if you can get it) or 6 tons of fresh manure. Horse manure likely to have the most weed seeds. Plant buckwheat to crowd out some weeds. Then till up the buckwheat and plant clover, 14 pounds per acre. Then when it is two feet tall, till it up. A few years of soil enrichment will get you to that productive organic place you want to be.
But, you could just keep doing what you are doing. Talking to others about cutting your hay might queer up the deal you have and then what do you plan to do if no one will cut your hay?
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Old 04/09/13, 09:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
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Originally Posted by DixyDoodle View Post
Or, seeing that the price of hay and the quality of it varies (what if you experience a draught or too much rain?), it might be best to negotiate a cash lease....around here it's about $40 per acre. You can always have a clause in it to consider hay as payment instead, depending on the year....that way you are not going to get stuck with poor quality hay, particularly if the farmer slacks off and bales the hay when it's damp, and you end up with mouldy hay.

Do not discount the fact that just because someone is a farmer, means that they are a good one.....we once had a farmer do our hay and he baled it wet....we ended up dumping half of it. And he has done hay for 40+ yrs.
Kinda take issue with that....

If you crop share the hay, both of you have some risk, and can reap big rewards in the right year, and both of you are motivated to improve and care for the soil, which makes better hay, which rewards both of you.

Cash rent on hay ground means you get a lower tho steady income from it, as the farmer takes on all the risk. Certainly he has to pay less, because he will shoulder all the losses when a crop fails due to too much or not enough rain.

As well, the risk is increased that the farmer will not want to put any fertilizer or improvements into the hay field. And neither will the land owner. Both become content to just continue mining the soil, and allow the crop to dwindle away. The land owner wants the cash to spend, and the farmer doesn't want to invest money in land they don't know if they will have for more than the next 12 months. Building the soil back up is a long term cost, takes years to fix soil problems.

Raising hay is not like producing widgets in a factory, when you can control quality completely and every widget will be the same. Raising hay, you work with and at times in spite of Mother Nature, and some times it gets to the point you just get the old hay crop off the field to throw away, and try again the next cutting in 30 to 60 days. That does not mean it was a bad farmer, just the realities of hay farming....

I think perhaps one finds the type of farmer they deserve? If you have a list of difficult conditions, or just want a check to cash and not put any effort into your hay ground, you will likely attract the not as good farmers.....

This field in question appears to be hilly, poor ground, and will need a lot of TLC to bring it back into top production.

That will take both a good farmer and a good owner to work together for both to come out in a win-win situation over time.

It will be easy for the property to be abandoned or run down even worse if some thought and energy and money isn't put into it.

I farm for a living, and taking care of the soil is the only way I can continue to farm. It is painful to watch mining of the ground which takes years and years and a lot of cost to repair. It is painful to see a setup where bad farming practices are almost a given. I respond to threads like this because I'm passionate about maintaining good ground so one can have good crops now and for the next generation.

I've got a bit of a swamp that has not been fertilized in 20 years, and I cut hay off it that is taller than the tractor. But that works for that type of soil, it is something like 20% organic matter, and ph over 8. My land would need drainage, but the govt doesn't allow that... So it produces a lot of average quality hay, best fit I can make of that plot.

The description of the land in question is very different. It needs help, and just renting it out for $40 cash, or crop sharing it with restrictions that don't allow it to be improved is painful to me. The land needs help.

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Old 04/09/13, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: N E Washington State
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Yes that land needs help. Just being green and growing in the country doesn't make it hay. Most of the time, in most of the country, baled weeds don't bring much money. Often the cost of baling poor hay is not equal to the cost of the fuel and twine needed to bale it.
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Old 04/12/13, 06:25 AM
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Even fair quality hay sells at 2.50-3.00 per bale. More than worth the cost of baling.
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Old 04/12/13, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: N E Washington State
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If you don't know what is growing it's probably weeds. In a low yield year, it is not going to make many bales, and whoever buys it will be planting weeds on his land. Gas, twine, time and equipment all cost money. Of course, if you bale it wet and sell it by the ton, you will make a little more. That won't help build your reputation, but if you are selling weeds as hay I guess you don't care.
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Old 04/12/13, 01:13 PM
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Location: IN
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I just bought six round alfalfa bales that my neighor sold to me. He said that they were a little wet when they were made and got a little "warm" inside. I paid him what he wanted at 100.00 each. How many old wet hay bales can you make on that ground?

He delivered them and put them where I asked him too.

I sell for a living and sometimes when I go home I don't want to haggle.

"Sometimes the pleasure, aint worth the pain. It's a long long grind...and it tires your mind." I sound better in print, I agree. But not too much.
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