Mowing, raking, and baling. I wish hay-making was that easy. For me, that sequence is too often interrupted by cussing the weatherman, tedding, and more raking. Making hay is a consuming summer-time task. As farmers prepare to sharpen the pencil, I think it is important to look at what hay costs to produce.

Every ton of hay contains approximately 40 lbs. of N, 20 lbs. of P, and 50 lbs. of K. However, it is important to calculate N losses at about 75%, thus only about 10 lbs. of N are returned to the soil. The values of P and K are accurate to what would be returned.

Fertilizer prices for Illinois published by USDA (May 12 report) are: N $0.40, P $0.34, K $0.29.

Using current nutrient values, hay has a fertilizer value of $25.30 per dry ton. Assuming a 1200lb round bale is 15% moisture, the nutrient value per bale is $12.91.

If you are figuring what it costs you to make hay on your farm, add mowing, raking, and baling at 20.20 per bale (Machinery Cost Estimates, University of Illinois Extension, June 2015). As a result, a bale of hay sitting in the field costs $33.11.

Other costs would include removal of micronutrients, moving the bales from the field, some additional time and labor in handling the bales, and the use of equipment to transport the hay. If yields are below average, nearly all costs increase. Hay storage costs can also be a substantial part of hay costs.

Knowing your cost of production is far from a new topic in production agriculture, however it remains a very important one. Tally production costs and take a look at them. That is the best way to improve your profit potential.