Every winter, millions of tons of hay move up and down the roads of the rural Northeast. Some farmers need extra hay every year; some always have extra to sell. But clear communication is key for both buyer and seller.
If youâ€™re a buyer, whether buying locally or from some distance, clarifying the exact terms of the transaction will reduce the potential for misunderstanding â€“ and hard feelings. If youâ€™re a seller, specifying exact terms of the sale and considering the buyerâ€™s needs may mean even more sales â€“ and certainly repeat customers.
Market product, not commodity
Sellers marketing a product rather than a commodity to low bidders can increase salability of the hay. You add value by bringing factors other than price into the market -- forage quality, consideration of customer needs, prompt delivery, steady supply and appreciation of business.
- Be clear about what kind of hay the buyer wants. What kind of animal is the hay to be fed to? Does the buyer want alfalfa, grass or a grass/clover mix? Is forage quality determined by chemical analysis, leafiness, color or some other characteristic?
- Be specific about reasons for rejection of the hay on delivery. One of the biggest complaints of hay dealers is loading a lot of hay, driving to the buyer and having it be rejected so that the seller must return home with the hay and no sale. Most of these problems can be eliminated by good communication.
- More often than not, a single price is tossed out, and the sale is made or not. This can lead to confusion and disagreements between the buyer and seller if other issues arenâ€™t considered. For example, what is the point of sale? Is delivery included?
- Some sellers price the hay at their farm and delivery is extra, some include delivery in the price. If delivered, will the seller unload the hay?
- Be clear on the amount being contracted for. A different price may be offered for larger amounts than smaller amounts, which require more labor per ton delivered. It takes as long to haul 1 ton of hay as it does 24 tons.
- When the hay will be delivered? Is some hay needed immediately? Buyers often donâ€™t look for hay until theyâ€™re almost out. If larger amounts are contracted requiring multiple loads, is the buyer going to take delivery all at once or over a period of time?
- How long is the price good for? If the buyer is looking around, will the seller stick to the same price for a week, a month or some other length of time?
- When is payment due and in what form? Is it due on delivery, within 30 days or on another time?
- Consider the logistics of delivery. Most facilities are accessible to large truck or trucks with trailers, but some arenâ€™t. Can the seller get his truck up to the site for unloading? Iâ€™ve seen hay purchased and then the semi arrived and couldnâ€™t get into the yard to unload. Mud can also prevent access to the storage site.
- Clarify the amount of help unloading expected from the buyer. And, agree on a delivery time so that the buyer is present to help and pay for the hay.
- Sellers looking for continued markets would do well to follow up with the customer after the sale. Ask how the hay is being accepted. Is there any room for improvement? This may be the difference between a single sale and years of business.
Dan Undersander is a University of Wisconsin Extension and Research forage agronomist.