Harvesting operations are time-sensitive, and weather conditions can play a significant role when farmers decide to harvest their crops. If the forecast calls for bad weather, it may be tempting to delay harvesting in hopes that the weather will improve. However, delaying a harvest can come with costs. Waiting out the weather can result in a lost harvesting window and reduced quality as crops mature past their peak cutting stage.
Then there is also the factor of dry-down time between mowing and baling; waiting too long for your forage to dry after mowing puts it at risk for weather events. Good hay conditioning rollers from B&D Rollers can optimize the crushing and cracking of stems while minimizing leaf loss, creating softer, more palatable hay that dries faster.
This article will examine some of the costs associated with delaying your harvest.
Costs of Delaying Your Harvest
Finding that “just right” point of maturity for hay harvesting can be challenging. This point comes somewhere between when the seed heads start appearing and when it has grown an additional foot after that point. Once the hay has matured, it slowly begins to drop in nutrient value and digestibility. After your crop has matured, delaying your harvest means losing value in the benefits afforded to livestock consuming this harvest.
Labor is not cheap, and you want to avoid paying wages to keep help on hand if there is nothing to do. Alternatively, other farmers may have already hired most workers if you wait too long. You may run the risk of not being able to find labor at all, leading to even more delays and lost opportunities.
If you are renting any equipment, delaying a harvest may also extend that rental period incurring additional operating costs. Having the right equipment on hand in the right place and at the right time can significantly impact the bottom line if any of those critical elements are not aligned correctly.
The longer you wait to harvest, the greater the risk that your crop will be damaged by bad weather. This risk is especially true if you are waiting for a specific weather window. If the weather turns bad, you could lose your entire crop. Many farmers have lost their crops to late-season storms, so waiting is always a risk.
Also, mowed hay is often left in windrows to dry before being baled, and the dry-down time can be extended due to bad weather. If hay is cut and baled too late in the season, there is a risk that the lower yield will not be worth the effort and expense of harvesting. In addition, there is also a risk of harvesting wet hay, which can lead to mold growth and reduced Relative Feed Value (RFV). Wet hay is also more difficult to handle and can cause damage to equipment.
If you happen to have forage or hay insurance, you may be protected against some harvesting delays. However, it is on you to provide proof that an insured event covers any claim you make. Also, lacking the equipment or labor to harvest your crop by the end of the insured period will disqualify your claim.
6. Lost opportunities
You may lose out on opportunities for subsequent mowings or to plant other crops when you delay the hay harvest. Since you can only plant one crop at a time, if you wait to harvest your first crop, you will not be able to plant that second one with enough time for it to fully mature before the growing season ends.
7. Lost profits
The bottom line of all the above costs is a reduction in your profits. Lower quality or damaged hay means you will have to charge less per ton. Or it may mean lowered production from livestock, reducing revenue downstream. Increased expenses due to idle labor, lack of labor, idle equipment, or damaged equipment also feed directly into lowering your bottom line.
Then, of course, there is potential damage to your reputation. If your customers rely on you to deliver your harvest to keep their livestock fed and producing, they will need to turn elsewhere for a new source and may not return next season.
9. Peace of mind
The longer you wait to harvest, the more stress you will be under due to the constant worry about the weather and the state of your crops. The stress of waiting can take a physical and emotional toll, and the financial costs of dealing with those tolls can cause more stress. So much so that the trade-off between accepting what you have or losing a higher-quality crop to a weather event needs to be considered carefully.
Mitigate the Risk
By decreasing the dry-down time required between mowing and baling, you can mitigate the risks associated with delaying your harvest. Using quality hay conditioning rollers in good condition will minimize the dry-down time, leaving you with more potential weather windows to work within and reducing the risk of weather-related damage or delays during dry-down.
The Crusher by B&D Rollers completely flattens stems with minimal leaf loss, thereby retaining nutrients for a higher RFV while resulting in faster dry-down times. These rollers are universal and proven effective in all forages. Contact us to learn how adding these rollers or replacing inadequate rollers today can help you avoid delayed hay harvest costs.
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