Feeding supplemental hay is a common practice for South Texas cow-calf operations. Overstocking, as well as variations in rainfall and forage conditions, often requires feeding hay to maintain cattle numbers. Feeding hay and protein supplementation such as range cubes directly increase operating costs and often have a major impact on the profitability and financial well being of a ranching business.

When one looks at best management practices on a cattle operation that could improve profitability, several strategies could be evaluated including adjusting stocking rates, bull soundness exams, pregnancy testing, culling open cows, and purchasing versus producing quality hay.

Some recent work done by Mac Young, Extension Program Specialist-Risk Management; Anthony Netardus, County Extension Agent - Agriculture in DeWitt County; and Joe Paschal, Extension Livestock Specialist, show that producing your own quality hay can be expensive. The FARM Assistance Focus 2009-2010, “Economic Impact of Beef Cattle Best Management Practices in South Texas: Purchasing vs. Producing Hay,” is a simple economic analysis of estimated costs/returns in producing versus purchasing hay.

Assuming a 2,000-acre ranch with 200 acres of coastal, the analysis evaluated different scenarios including buying all hay needs, growing and harvesting hay with own equipment, custom harvesting. According to Mac Young, the results showed that buying hay may be the best alternative for most ranching operations in an average year. This is largely due to the additional cost of owning harvesting equipment. It is possible that producing hay and owning hay harvest equipment could be the best alternative if custom harvesting was a possibility to offset all or part of the ownership costs. Producers should carefully consider the most profitable strategy for their operations.

Bottom line, implementing the most cost-effective supplemental hay strategies offers cow-calf producers the potential to improve profitability. More details about this study can be found at the following link; http://coastalbend.tamu.edu/Extension/Risk%20Management/2009-10.pdf