Hay is the top crop for Lacey Hay Company, Valley Springs, S.D.
"It's our No. 1 deal," says Miles Lacey.
Dick and Konny Lacey started the company more than 60 years ago. Their son, Miles, and grandsons, Tyler and Tanner Jacobson, are involved fulltime in the business. Their daughter, Twyla, and son, Selden, haul hay for the company in the summertime.
The Laceys raise about 700 acres of alfalfa at their Valley Springs headquarters in southeast South Dakota and another 700 acres of dryland and irrigated alfalfa 300 miles north near Mound City, S.D.
The distance between the two farms is challenging logistically, but it is also one of their keys to success.
To make sure they can bale hay round the clock when necessary, the Laceys keep two separate lines of hay equipment at each farm -- two swathers, two balers, two rakes and a bale/picker stacker. At Mound City, they have camper trailer to live in and shop trailer to work from. They have hay storage sheds at both places.
The distance between the two farms and the difference in the weather improves the odds that they will be able to produce enough high quality hay for their customers.
"Crop insurance isn't very good for alfalfa," says Miles. "We have to do everything on our own to reduce our risk."
Other things they to do reduce risk:
Grow Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties. They plant several varieties each year, matching varieties to topography, soil types and growing conditions. Sometimes they plant variety mixtures in the same field.
Use high seeding rates. They typically put down 20 pounds of alfalfa seed per acre, even at the Mound City, S.D., farm. High plant populations reduce stem diameter as they grow taller to compete for sunlight, Miles says.
After more than 60 years in the business, Laceys find themselves in a booming hay market. The drought has been a factor, of course, but growth of dairy in the I-29 Corridor has been a big plus, too. . They sell most of their high quality hay to dairies located along Interstate 29 in eastern South Dakota, western Minnesota and northwest Iowa.
"We never thought we'd see $300 ton hay," Miles says. "We wish we had another 1,000 acres."