Farm Management Minute: Hay inventory

Farm Forum

It’s mid-July and most producers are out putting up every field of grass/alfalfa hay that they can. In reviewing management practices used to survive 2012’s severe drought, many lessons can be learned. One important detail is to keep an accurate and current feed inventory for our livestock. We paid an all-time high price for hay last year; many operators were looking to purchase winter feed late in the season. Due to the short supply and high prices, low quality roughage was bringing a high dollar value.

With many of our clients, we like to take a thorough inventory of feed available during our July visit. Once we get the mid-year inventory of the operation’s hay and grain supply, we can then start looking back to previous years to see if there will be adequate feed for the winter, or if the operator needs to start buying extra hay or grain. Last year ranchers who didn’t know their mid-year hay inventory were put into a difficult position of having to find hay late in the year. In most cases, this was too late to buy hay at a more reasonable price.

In our 2012 Analysis, even with a feed value of $150/ton, the average cow operation lost $27.50/head. Operations that paid more for hay had greater losses per head. That’s why it is very important to do a July inventory to determine as early as possible if there will be an abundance or shortage of feed for the year. With the cost of trucking added onto purchasing hay, we can’t emphasize enough to take an inventory during the summer months so it will give you enough time to sell or purchase winter feed as needed.

We sometimes concentrate more on our roughage feed, but it is also wise to watch the grain prices. Managing decisions need to be made regarding the purchase of grain for the winter months. Sometimes it’s cheaper per pound to buy grain instead of higher quality alfalfa. In this next month, managers should be get a close count on hay being brought in from the fields and also watch the grain markets to decide if feeding grain makes financial sense for their operation. You can reach David Koupal at 1-800-684-1969 ext. 7193, or