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June 26, 2013   Email to Friend 

Hay Today, Gone Tomorrow
Melissa Martin

Pickens County cattleman Greg Powell says quality hay is the backbone of his successful registered Angus cattle farm. That's why he built a hay barn last year.

Pickens County cattleman Greg Powell says quality hay is the backbone of his successful registered Angus cattle farm. Recognizing it’s important to protect his investment, Powell built a 100-feet by 90-feet hay barn last year.

“In this area, the ground isn’t sandy. Any time it rains, water sits on the surface up to a few days before soaking in to the earth,” said Powell, who owns Vista Farms & Cattle Co. in the Aliceville community. “Water also soaks into the bales. To prevent losing at least 20 percent of our hay, we store it under a barn.”

Powell said moisture reduces the hay’s dollar value and nutritional quality — something he can’t afford to risk when feeding 1,200 cows. While recognizing the significant up-front cost of building a barn, Powell said the overall savings pay dividends.

“Last year, we fed our Angus more than 3,000 rolls of hay. Because the price of hay has pretty much doubled in the past five or 10 years, it’s critical to be as efficient as possible with the hay we grow and the hay we have to buy for the winter,” he said. “If you figure 20 percent of what hay costs in relation to what it would cost to build a barn, you could pretty much pay for the construction within five years.”

Alabama Farmers Federation Hay and Forage Division Director Nate Jaeger said hay and cattle farmers interested in building a barn have options.

“For most farmers, it’s a matter of financial circumstance that deters them from building barns to store hay,” Jaeger said. “To help, the Alabama Agricultural Development Authority (AADA) is offering a low-interest loan program to lessen the financial burden.”


The program offers loans up to $12,500 for a 40-feet by 60-feet barn or $25,000 for a 50-feet x 100-feet barn with a 4-percent interest rate. Collateralized insurance is required, and AADA executive Director John Gamble said hay barn plans must meet specifications, including a field inspection prior to loan approval. All hay barns must be new construction, he added.

“Farmers should also be aware that construction costs exceeding the approved loan amount are the responsibility of the program participant, not AADA,” Gamble added. “Loans are available based on need and herd size, and farmers have four years to repay them.”  


An oversight committee will review all applications before construction. A $50 application fee is required.

To request a loan package, contact Gamble at (334) 240-7245 or email john.gamble@agi.alabama.gov.


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