“The summer of 2019 was extremely challenging for anyone trying to put up dry forage,” says Ted Nibourg, farm business management specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre.
“More often than not, hay and greenfeed were baled at moisture contents greater than normal. In an attempt to salvage forage production this summer, many producers opted to take their crop off as haylage by wrapping or bagging the bales.”
Adding to the challenges of this year’s forage crop is the variation in moisture content of the haylage. Specialists at the Ag-Info Centre are receiving reports of moisture contents ranging between 20 and 65% moisture, with 35 to 80% dry matter.
Nibourg says that this broad range of moisture content is proving problematic for producers trying to compare prices between different sources of feed. However, the easiest way to compare prices is to base the price on a dry matter basis.
“Current greenfeed prices are ranging between $100 and $120 per ton, or 2000 lbs. That converts to 5 to 6 cents per lb. Dry greenfeed usually consists of 15% moisture or 85% dry matter. A ton of greenfeed therefore, contains 1700 lbs of dry matter. On a dry matter basis, that greenfeed is valued at 5.8 to 7 cents per lb.”
He adds that conventional silage is very similar. “Silage is currently priced at $50 to $55 per wet ton in the pit. The dry matter content of silage is 35%. A ton of silage contains 700 lbs of dry material, which translates to between 7.1 and 7.8 cents per lb.”
“When doing price comparisons it is important to know the moisture content of the feeds. If, for example, you were considering some 1500 lb bales put up at 40% moisture you would have 900 lbs of dry matter. Using the previous dry matter price range of 5.8 to 7.8 cents per lb, those bales should range in price between $52 and $70 per bale.
Nibourg says to consider moisture content when hauling bales.
“The price of hauling dry matter home will be cheaper for bales containing 40% moisture as opposed to bales that have 60% moisture. You would be hauling an extra 300 lbs of water per bale if the moisture content of those 1500 lb bales was 60%. There is very little profit in hauling water.”