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Logues diversify with hay business

Since Joe Logue began farming in 1962, the Wakonda, S.D., family has used alfalfa to diversify their farm. And they stayed ahead of the rapidly changing hay business by adapting to their customers’ needs and trying the latest equipment early.

For instance, they were one of the first in their neighborhood to buy a big baler. “Everybody wanted to see what it could do before they bought their own,” Joe says. “That’s how we got started baling for other farmers.”

Once neighbors purchased their own balers, the Logues’ hay business tapered off. They then began producing small square bales for a few customers. That continued until 1992. Now, they put up large round and large square bales.

“When our boys — Tom, Jon and Don — started coming into the business, we acquired more land,” Joe says. “We’ve never worked at building hay sales. It just kind of happened. We don’t advertise. Word of mouth is how people learn about us.”

The Logues believe their hay business has been successful for several reasons. Attention to detail and a focus on producing quality hay top the list.

Key Points

Hay has been a good addition to this South Dakota farm for 50 years.

Adopting new technology early has kept them in the market.

They spread their risk by raising alfalfa on hillsides and river bottoms.

“In a normal year about 60% of our bales go to dairies,” Tom Logue says. “We put up storage sheds in the late 1990s to maintain quality. About 80% of what we sell goes to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Sometimes we sell in Oklahoma or Texas. Every year is different. ”They raise hay both on hillsides and bottom land.

“When moisture levels fluctuate, we still get good hay from one place or the other. In 2010, with all the rain, even some of the hillside hay spoiled before it could be put up,” Tom says.

The Logues share the work of producing hay. Tom handles sales and deliveries to keep the process centralized.

“Joe cuts and rakes, and Don is good at baling,” Tom says. “We try to plan ahead so customers don’t need to call us at the last minute for a load of hay. But if they do, we’ll even shut down the combine to load hay or load a truck in the dark. Good customer service and attention to customer needs is key to maintaining a customer base.”

The Logues usually plant about 30% of their land to alfalfa. Fluctuating grain and milk prices influence their planted acres. “Mother Nature has a big part in all of it, too,” Joe says.

The Logues are sensitive to situations such as the Texas drought, when beef producers are working hard to manage herds without losing either their cattle or their farm.

“We sell a small percentage of hay to a couple of feed stores that deliver it to their customers,” Don says. “That’s part of our diversification. No matter what you do, that customer base will change somewhat from year to year.”

The Logues hire local truckers to deliver most of their hay. In a pinch they use their own trucks. “Freight is costing customers more than the hay itself these days,” Tom says. Due to rising commodity prices, the Logues are seeing fewer acres around them planted to alfalfa.

“We’ll probably continue to use hay as part of our diversification strategy,” Tom says. “The most important thing to remember is that no one segment of a farm will be profitable every year.”

Sorenson writes from Yankton, S.D.

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This article published in the May, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.