NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Determining the Price of Hay

hay prices, determining the price of hay

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources   

I received several calls asking about hay prices in the area. Many factors need to be taken into account when determining the price of hay. It is not a simple process. When determining the price of hay one needs to know what kind of hay it is and what percentage of mix is in it. Hay that is 75% alfalfa and 25% grass should bring more than hay that is 25% alfalfa and 75% grass. The type of grass also plays a factor. For example, tame grasses on average, are more valuable than CRP hay. The time of year when the hay was put up plays a factor in pricing as well. Second cutting alfalfa is usually higher quality than first cutting, therefore will have a higher price.

A forage quality test helps insure getting top dollar. If purchasing hay, ask for forage quality test results. Forage quality tests cost $25 to $50 depending on the depth of data you want to receive. Things that need to be tested for are Crude Protein (CP), Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), Digestible Protein (DP) and Relative Feed Value (RFV). With these test results, hay can be priced accordingly.

What is the price of hay? The price of hay depends upon its quality and type. Understand and know your hay to receive top dollar. Hay is not equal when it comes to quality and forage levels. On the flip side, if you are buying hay make sure you know what you are buying. Selling or buying hay is like selling or buying a used car. A car with 150,000 miles will bring less than a car with 50,000 miles. Compare quality similarly when purchasing hay. A car salesman will always say a car is a good car, right? Likewise, a producer selling hay will say it is good hay, but what does “good” mean? Good price, good protein, good quality? The only way to know is to test it, just as you would test drive a used car you are considering purchasing.

Eighty percent of the cost of raising livestock is attributed to feed. Some ranchers don’t know what they are buying when it comes to hay and then wonder why cows and calves are not experiencing pounds of gain as anticipated. These livestock may not have had a chance to make the goals set for them because they didn’t have the proper diet. Livestock are like automobiles. If not taken care of they lose value and performance in a very short time. A good cow can become a poor cow in less than six months without a correct diet. The same can be said for bulls. They can have all the best genetics, but if their dietary needs are not met, they can’t pass on to their offspring all that their genetics have to offer.

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