Notes from Windward: #68


Forage Update

the latest on the cost of alfalfa

     The latest government figures report that inflation is running at between three and four percent, a rate which doesn't at all reflect what we're seeing here in deep country. Last year I wrote about what was happening with wheat prices, so this summer I'll pass along a look at what's happening to forage prices, changes which will directly affect what you'll pay in the future for milk, meat, cheese, yogurt, etc.

Jen and Sarah stacking fresh cut hay

     Each year we're able to shift our animals over to a greater proportion of on-site produced food, and we're expanding that in novel ways such as the planting of forage trees such as this year's focus on chestnuts. Still we purchase about ten tons of baled alfalfa a year for our sheep, goats and rabbits. The day will come when we'll not need purchased forage, but for now the cost/benefit ratio is such that our attention is focused elsewhere.

     Back in the 1940's farmers used about one calorie of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of food--these days, the ratio is upwards of twenty to one. And as the cost of natural gas and oil rise, the cost of food produced using diesel fuel and fertilizer rises too.

     In the summer of 2006 we were able to buy and transport hay to our barn for $120/ton. This past week, we contracted for our usual ten tons, but at a cost of $225/ton, and that was a "long-term, good customer" price since most places it's being sold for $240 in the field. Add in another $25 in fuel to get it home, and that bumps our per-bale price up to $12.50--double what we were paying two years ago.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68