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Barley bales sitting in a field

Baling cereal rye for cattle feed: What were we thinking?

We bit off more than we could chew, and now, we need a nap.

Have you ever made a decision on the farm, and then realized that decision meant more work than you imagined? That happened to us last week.

Harvesting cereal rye for cattle feed seemed like a great idea, but I didn’t know that it would lead to burning the midnight oil for days on end.

We wanted to chop rye last year, but mother nature made that situation an utter disaster. Last year, we sprayed the cereal rye and it rained 5 inches the day the chopping crew arrived. It kept raining and the rye turned to mush. We lit a match to that field and planted soybeans a month later.

Fast forward to this year

This spring we planned to harvest 400 acres of rye. Luckily the weather allowed us to accomplish this lofty goal. We got it done, but it was a huge job. A custom crew chopped 200 acres for our bunker, and we baled 200 acres. The bunker is covered, bales are moved, and we are all exhausted. But, we have cattle feed on hand for months.

When it comes to the bottom line, I hope harvesting the rye doesn’t remove so many nutrients that it hurts the primary soybean crop yield. On the other hand, I’ve created a new revenue stream as I’ve already sold some of the bales. My sources indicate that the hay market is tight.

Was it worth the money, time, and effort to harvest the cereal rye? We paid a custom crew per ton for chopping, and used our tractors and time for packing. When it came to baling, every tractor had a cost per hour. There were times when we had four tractors working in the same field. Those are things I need to consider. But for now, I need a nap.

Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? How did that work out?

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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