Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
June 17, 1999

Pricing Hay

The value of hay varies considerably and depends on a number of factors. First of all, the season of the year creates a wider price fluctuation than we normally see in other crops. The type of forage -- legume, cool or warm season grass -- and also the specie of plants that compose each of these forage groups have an influence on the value of the forage. However, there are several ways to determine the price of hay.

Pricing the hay in the field at the time of harvest requires additional thoughts. The major consideration is what species are available for harvest, the stage of maturity, and the type of packages the hay is being stored in. If the forage being harvested is predominantly grass and well headed out, then the feeding value tends to be reduced as the days until harvest increases. If there is no opportunity to have a nutritional analysis conducted on the forage I use a thumb rule for a starter to determine the value of the hay. First I ask the producer what the forage basically is. If the answer is cool season grass and the harvest date is the last of June or first of July, the amount of undergrowth has a considerable influence on the quality of the hay. If the producer feels the value would be $40.00 per ton then the cost of mowing, raking and baling the hay must be considered. This cost will vary from region to region but the expenditure will be a minimum of $0.01 per pound or $20.00 per T for harvesting. This places the value of the forage at $0.01 per pound on the stump.

If we are pricing forages that are largely alfalfa, clover or other legumes, then the nutritional value increases. The value of the forage in the field can still be determined by considering what the forage is worth after harvest and subtracting the harvesting cost.

Much hay is still sold by the sight and smell method. In other words if the hay looks good and smells like hay the value is determined by the buyer and seller. This method varies considerably between areas of the Midwest. Basically the price of hay fluctuates more by the need for roughage than it does by the nutritional content. However, the hay shows at local events and State Fairs have assisted greatly with changing the thinking of many producers. More and more livestock producers are requesting nutritional information on forage they are purchasing.

Another frequently used method is taking a load of hay to the local auction. This method generally has better results when inclement weather conditions prevail and spring is approaching. However drought situations also have an influence on the value of hay.

The Relative Feed Value is a calculation used to compare forages and is determined from the Digestible Dry Matter and estimated Dry Matter Intake. Forages with NDF values of 53% and ADF values of 41% represent the value of 100 and is considered excellent forage. Forages with a RFV greater than 100 are considered higher quality than those with a value less than 100. Protein is not considered in the RFV and must also be taken into consideration. However, in forages that generally have low fiber content, we normally expect higher protein; forages with high fiber generally contain lower protein values. Dairy producers often seek forages with a RFV of 120 or higher for high producing cows.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - June 17, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT061799.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004