Lee Pitts: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
I’ve read countless articles written by farm advisors and college professors on how to determine if you should raise your own hay or purchase it. Usually these include a formula or Internet calculator where you plug in all sorts of numbers like depreciation, variable costs, yearly housing costs for equipment, blah blah blah. I’m here to tell you there’s only one equation you need to remember: If (a) = the cost of one bale you grow yourself and (b) = the cost of each bale you buy, (a) – (b) = … ARE YOU CRAZY? UNDER NO CONDITIONS SHOULD YOU EVER GROW YOUR OWN HAY!
I reached this conclusion after just two experiences in growing hay. The first was when I was in high school and I got a job hauling hay for a ranch that grew their own. There were four of us, three crazy teenagers and the old sage manager who drove the truck which was, I think, one of the first ever built. The truck had a lot in common with the oat hay because both were extremely rusty. We spent many an hour watching the manager patch things together with excess baling wire, which we had plenty of thanks to the antique McCormick baler that enthusiastically mangled the stuff.
Prior to picking up bales in the field we had to kick them over so they’d lie flat. It sounds simple enough but when you kicked over each bale you didn’t know if a jackrabbit or squirrel would dart out giving you a heart attack, or a rattlesnake would be coiled underneath.
To load the hay we bolted an old elevator to the frame of the truck. The purpose of this elevator was to pick up the small bales that weighed about 300 POUNDS (just kidding, but not by much) and delivered the bales to the side of the truck bed where one of us kids would grab the bale and stack it. What made this interesting was you’d yank on the bale with your hay hook to remove it from the elevator but half the time the wire would break and you’d fall backwards. This was okay when you were on layer #1 but not when you were balancing atop layer #7. I don’t know how we kept from breaking our young necks.
Bear in mind this was 50 years ago and ever since then I’ve had an allergic reaction to Cheerios and oat bran granola bars. I still itch all over and it seems like I’m still picking stems and seeds out of my underwear.
My other experience in raising hay was when I sharecropped a piece of ground with my brother-in-law who just happened to be one of the best vegetable farmers in the country. For many years if you ate coleslaw from KFC it was probably grown by my partner in this disaster. His family also grew broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower and even some opium poppies for a drug company that had to have security 24/7. In other words, my brother-in-law could grow hair on a cue ball.
Now that I was a farmer I had to acquire the proper trappings so I put a rusty shovel in the back of my truck, got a pair of lace-up boots, joined the Farm Bureau and went for coffee every morning two hours before sunup. As a result, I was exhausted during the entire growing season.
We barely made a crop and when I called the trucker to haul it to the ranch I leased 30 miles distant I told him specifically where the stacks were. He said he knew exactly where it was so I didn’t need to be present. When the hay arrived at the ranch I knew immediately it wasn’t ours because it was way too good. They had picked up the hay from someone else’s stack! So the trucker had to sneak back, unload it and retrieve our hay all without me being locked up for being a hay thief!
I am constantly reminded of my farming days because everywhere I fed the toxic hay the ground became permanently sterilized and there are still traces of oat hay left because the cows refused to eat it.
Thus ended forever my farming days.
Please note: I have a pair of size nine lace-up farmer boots for sale on Craigslist. Barely used.