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Tool tallies hay storage costs

Hay is the third most valuable crop produced in Iowa, yet some farmers lose as much as a fourth of their crop from improperly storing it. However, hay producers now have a new tool to help them analyze storage method alternatives and the costs involved.

Iowa State University Extension economist William Edwards says the new decision aid for comparing the costs of different hay storage options is available on ISU Extension’s Ag Decision Maker website.

Key Points

• New hay storage cost analyzer helps producers make decisions.

• The online tool compares the cost of different types of hay storage methods.

• On ISU’s Ag Decision Maker website, this useful tool is available for free.

“This free electronic spreadsheet can compare up to eight alternatives at a time,” Edwards says. “The standard for comparison is storing bales on bare ground with no cover. This is the least-cost method, but also results in the most storage loss. Other methods include outdoor uncovered storage on gravel or pallets, outdoor covered storage, storage under a roof, and storage in a new or existing building.”

Several types of cost are considered in the analysis. Initial investments in storage structure, tarps, gravel and pallets are amortized over their individual expected lives. Annual costs such as repairs, insurance and property taxes are part of the spreadsheet, as are estimated labor costs for storing and feeding the hay. And the estimated value of spoilage losses under each system is considered.

Different types of storage

“Users will need to enter the expected volume of hay to be produced or that’s needed, current hay prices and the size of bales they use,” Edwards says. “For each method, a total annual cost is calculated, which includes spoilage losses and the tons of hay available to feed or sell.”

The Excel-based spreadsheet “Hay Storage Cost Comparison” is available for download on the Ag DM website at
. This new tool is part of the Ag Decision Maker site’s Crop Decision section. The entire list of decision tools is at

The Iowa Beef Center at ISU in Ames provided funding to help develop the new online hay storage cost evaluation program. IBC was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state’s beef cattle industry. It is made up of faculty and staff from ISU Extension, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and College of Veterinary Medicine, and works to develop and deliver the latest information regarding the beef cattle industry. For information about IBC, visit or check out the IBC blog at

Source: ISU Extension

Research farm reports online

There are 14 Iowa State University research and demonstration farms in Iowa; nine owned by associations (local farmers) and five owned by the university. One responsibility of ISU to the associations is to provide a summary of the research done at the farm in an annual report. The reports were made available in the past to the members and others in print form. Now, they’re available online to the public at in a new format.

The articles are organized by research farm, university departments, broad research categories and more specific topics. The website allows articles to be sorted, selected and saved as a collection. Once included in the “My Binder” feature, the articles are organized and given page numbers, and a table of contents is created.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.