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Round Bales Analysis

The figures listed below are based on a per acre basis and the summary totals are based on a 100 cow herd.  We relied upon University of Illinois data and research to develop realistic production cost estimates.  The estimates are produced under the assumption that you own the hay equipment and do not utilize custom operators.  The scenario we used allows for an alfalfa stand that has a life of 3 years with 3 cuttings per year.  Tillage and seeding costs are therefore based on 1 year's allocation of cost for the 3 year total cost.  You would probably leave the alfalfa stand for more than 3 years, but it's no secret that a diminishing stand over time will result in less production and thus additional cost.  Feeding round bales also results in a substantial amount of waste through spoilage and uneaten feed.  We used the U of I estimates that round bales result in 40% wasted feed.  Furthermore, we allowed for a 20% cushion in extra feed to allow for variables such as cows' condition, weather, etc.  Typical yearly consumption coupled with these percentage factors helped us in developing the total amount of tons in round bales needed to adequately feed a 100 cow herd in a given year.

Production Inputs

Price Per Acre
Cash Rent
Disk/Drill (1 year's allocation
Seed (1 year's allocation @ 20 lbs./ac.
Sprayer Application
Input Total

Processing Costs

Price Per Acre
$10.25 x 3 = $30.75
$7.00 x 3 = $21.00
$14.25 x 3 = $42.75
Processing Total
$94.50 (Based on 3 cuttings)

Total Production and Processing Costs Per Acre = $301.50

We figured an average of 5 tons of hay produced on 1 acre of alfalfa in a typical year.  The production and processing total listed above therefore equates to a total cost of $60.30 per ton.  We based the feed supply on each cow consuming round bales for 150 days at approximately 25 pounds per day.  This translates to 1.88 tons of hay per cow to feed for a year.  The figures listed below are based on 3.02 tons per cow.  This cushion allows for 40% average waste as well as some variance in cows' condition, weather, etc. on a yearly basis.

Feed Supply Analysis

100 cows x 1.88 tons = 188 tons

188 tons x 40% waste = 76 tons

188 tons x 20% cushion = 38 tons

Total Supply Needed = 302 tons

We showed earlier that the production and processing total cost per ton was $60.30 based on 5 tons per acre with 3 cuttings per year.  The total cost for this feed program is as follows:

302 tons x $60.30 = $18,210.60

This program would cost $182.11 per cow on a yearly basis.

The feed supply for 100 cows through this program could be produced on 60 acres.


Website Administrator: Dan Byers

This page last updated April 14, 2007