ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

How can I determine a price for high-protein hay?

Posted July 13, 2006

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

Our farm produces organic hay and beef in Quebec, 20 kilometers from the Vermont border. Can you help us determine a fair price for high-protein content hay (35 percent to 50 percent alfalfa)? Where would be a good place to advertise this?

Thank you,
Markus Goettke

Dear Markus,

Pricing hay fairly is always difficult since so much of the price depends on quality. Quality can be determined in two very distinct ways. The first way is rather subjective in that a buyer will judge the hay based on color, texture and smell. Everyone likes green hay that has fine leaves and a good, fresh smell. The second way to determine hay quality is more scientific and comes from a laboratory, where the hay is analysed for feed value. If you have all this going for you, that is: good color, fine texture and good feed analysis, your product should bring a premium price.

In many cases, conventional hay may be worth more than organic hay, if the quality is different. The organic hay market is very strong in both the horse market and the dairy animal market. Depending on the quantity you have, shipping quality hay long distances can be worth doing. Many farmers will pay top dollar to bring in quality. On the other hand, it can be difficult to sell poor quality hay at any price or distance.

Most conventional hay markets have websites where they post their recent sales in volume, price and quantity. I would advertise with your local certifier for local sales, use neighboring certifiers or farm publications for further advertising. Here in Pennsylvania, we have a paper called Lancaster Farming, which is a good place to advertise for sales in this region. There may be be something like that in your region.

Good luck, and thanks for reading New Farm.