Making the cut
Dale Duggan is meticulous in growing — and harvesting — hay in an efficient manner at Ballinger, Texas. Duggan puts down 107 pounds of 20-20-0-12 per acre to meet the nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur needs for his three-way cross of sorghum-sudan.
“Personally — my opinion — that’s not enough, but it’s adequate when you don’t know if it is going to rain,” Duggan says. He broadcasts the fertilizer during late winter or early spring. Duggan needs no potassium.
Duggan’s goal is to have hay grazer sown by April 10 each year. This year, timely rains helped the hay grazer get off to a great start.
Fertilizer costs $28 per acre at the 107-pound rate, with his seed costing $23 per acre. He pencils his fuel cost at another $9.23 per acre. Overall, Duggan figures his total input costs generally range from $55 to $65 per acre, with that window allowing for some equipment depreciation.
• Balanced fertilizer is essential for Dale Duggan to produce hay.
• The Duggan farm raises hay grazer to meet the needs of its own cattle.
• Anderson TRB 1400 Hay Hauler makes handling hay bales easy.
He aims for one good cutting of 5-by-5-foot round bales. With timely rain, he has yielded up to five big round bales per acre.
After cutting, the hay grazer field will be grazed out until frost. Duggan puts a commercial cow-calf herd of Hereford and Angus crossbreds on the hay grazer. He likes his cows to finish calving in April, which allows him to market a calf crop by the following October or November. It also fits his grazing period, and gives cows some rest going into winter by taking some pressure off of them.
Meanwhile, Duggan grows winter wheat, which can offer some additional winter forage for cattle and bridge the grazing gap until he’s ready to grow some new hay grazer again in the spring.
“At least, that’s what I try to do,” Duggan says.
Duggan doesn’t deliberately raise hay to sell to others — his own cows generally will consume all the hay. In the 2011 drought, he was extremely fortunate to have some 2010-crop hay left over to feed cows. “My cows come first,” he assures.
Getting the hay
Duggan’s goal is to cut hay grazer at about shoulder height — between the boot stage and heading time.
“That’s when I feel I get the best nutrition and quality,” he says.
Duggan says his Anderson TRB 1400 Hay Hauler was heaven-sent.
He recalls how he actually flew to Houston just to see it. Duggan bought it on the spot from a New Holland dealer there. It has made a dramatic change in the efficiency of picking up his hay bales in the field and moving them to the storage area.
The Hay Hauler has hydraulic cylinder arms and uses no chains. The arms reach out and get the round bales, picking up and unloading bales.
“It only takes six to seven minutes to load 10 bales,” Duggan says. “Then you can unload the 10 bales in less than a minute.”
When he made five big round bales to the acre, Duggan was impressed with the time he saved. “The Hay Hauler does the work with one tractor that we were doing before with a tractor plus two pickup trucks with two trailers,” he says.
Duggan was so impressed he made his own DVD home video of his Hay Hauler in action, called “Hay Hauling Made Easy.” (He even put it to music.)
Duggan grows some cotton. He credits the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program that the Southern Rolling Plains region is still growing cotton at all. The SRP zone was the first in Texas to eradicate the weevil.
“But cotton is just basically a rotation off of our wheat ground,” he notes. “Wheat is our basic cash crop — wheat and cattle.”
Duggan generally likes to grow at least two varieties of wheat. He believes it is too risky to grow just one variety of wheat considering disease and pest susceptibility in any given year.
The Runnels County producer grazes some wheat in winter, pulls the cows off in spring and lets it go to grain. But he did bale some wheat this year, “because the cows couldn’t keep it grazed down.”
That wheat hay will be the first fed to cows next fall, as Duggan doesn’t feel wheat hay has the shelf life of stored hay grazer.
“I’ll sometimes use a protein supplement in the winter, or as needed in a drought like 2011,” Duggan says.
Duggan depends on catching all livestock water in stock tanks. So he must capture runoff water.
That makes every drop of rain in 2012 a true blessing.
This article published in the July, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.