Hay man strives for excellence

For Taylor County, Texas, hay producer Leland Robinson, it’s not just the quantity of hay produced, but the quality.

Robinson is a longtime grower of coastal bermudagrass hay. He sprigged his first coastal in 1971 outside Abilene near Buffalo Gap, and got into the hay business in 1972.

About 99% of his market is hay for horses.

“They’re picky,” Robinson allows. “So you must have top-quality hay — no weeds and no sandburs. And they won’t take rained-on hay.”

Key Points

Leland Robinson gets quantity and quality in hay production.

Clientele seek high-quality coastal bermudagrass.

He says fertility, irrigation are essential for superb hay.

That means Robinson is extremely careful to check the weather forecast several days before he cuts and bales the coastal.

Robinson uses a disk cutter to lay the coastal grass flat. He leaves it undisturbed about two days and then rakes it. After that, his Hesston baler does a great job of cranking out square bales. His equine clientele prefer square bales. He only very occasionally harvests a few round bales.

Fertility, water needed

Robinson typically gets 100 square bales per acre from each cutting. That’s his goal. There have been exceptional years where he made 130 to 140 square bales.

In an average year, he will get four cuttings, or five cuttings in an exceptional growing season. It’s not easy. Fertility and water are paramount. He top-dresses the coastal bermudagrass with fertilizer. “I fertilize after every time I cut it,” he notes.

Soil tests a must

Robinson tests the soil each year and puts out the needed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Fertilization usually includes 100 pounds of N per acre and 50 pounds of potash.

“Coastal will use nearly as much potash as nitrogen,” he notes.

Robinson also applies 15 pounds of sulfur per acre, as well as trace elements. He figures $600 per acre for the entire year on fertilizer cost.

After that, irrigation is crucial. “As soon as I fertilize, I water,” Robinson says. “When the fertilizer truck pulls out of the field, I start the pivot.”

He uses a Valley center pivot that runs off an electric well with a 15-hp turbine. He is fortunate to have good water.

Leland, Francine honored

Earlier this year, Robinson and his wife, Francine, were honored as “2011 Taylor County Farm Family of the Year” to highlight the annual Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo in Abilene.

A legendary Texas agriculture teacher, Robinson taught agriculture for 39 years, with 36 years at Abilene Cooper High.

Besides the hay production between Abilene and Buffalo Gap, the Robinsons also raise wheat at Lawn, and despite some highly challenging weather, they were able to harvest some good-quality wheat this year.

“I was a city girl,” Francine says. “But being married to Leland … I learned to be ‘country’ pretty quickly.”

Robinson’s enterprises have ranged from hogs to chickens, and is passionate about restoring classic antique tractors.

In his “spare time” Robinson also grows tomatoes, cantaloupes, black-eyed peas, corn, and onions in their garden.

Earlier during spring, he went to Washington, D.C., on behalf of rural electric cooperatives.


HE’S HAY GUY: A top fertility program and his Valley center-pivot irrigation on coastal bermudagrass allow Abilene, Texas, hay producer Leland Robinson to produce top-notch hay near Buffalo Gap.

This article published in the July, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.