Some Midwestern hay growers no longer have to depend solely on domestic markets.

Kansas Forage Products, Stafford, KS, buys significant amounts of hay and exports most of it to the Middle East for feeding dairy cows, camels and sheep. The company needs more hay, says general manager Kelly Warner.

“One thing that sets us apart is that, unlike the domestic market, we have a consistent demand in the overseas market,” Warner comments. “Finding enough hay to satisfy this growing demand is a challenge to us.”

Kansas Forage Products began targeting the export market in 2005, when it became a division of New Jersey-based Fornazor International, Inc. Last year it was expected to export 25,000-30,000 tons of mostly alfalfa hay, plus some grass hay and straw.

Warner buys hay within 200 miles of Stafford, usually out of the field. She mainly wants “medium-quality, fair-to-good dairy hay.” Requirements are minimums of 145 relative feed value and 18% protein and a maximum of 14% moisture in weed-free big square bales.

“Some farmers may not have outlets for this midrange-quality hay, and we can use it,” she says.

The hay is trucked to the Stafford plant, where it's sliced, usually to 6-8” stem lengths, and double-compressed. The result is 3 × 4 × 5' bales that weigh 1,400-1,450 lbs each and are easy to remove slices from or run through grinders for total-mixed rations.

The double-compressed bales are loaded onto railcars for a 10-day trip to Houston, TX. There they're loaded into shipping containers and onto Pan-American vessels for a 37-day ocean voyage.

“While the Pacific Rim countries can best be served from the West Coast, it works out better to export hay to the Middle East and even South America from the Midwest,” Warner points out.

She expects export demand to continue growing. Due to water shortages, she says more and more Middle Eastern land is being converted from forage crops to human-consumption crops such as vegetables.

She says her company pays premium prices for less-than-top-quality hay, with payment made within 10 days. She has bought as few as 40 bales from a grower, so quantity is not a limiting factor.

Warner lists several other advantages for selling hay to Kansas Forage, all beginning with “no”:

  • No waiting perhaps months to sell.

  • No hassle of tarping or theneed to put hay under a roof.

  • No insurance is required.

  • No shrinkage.

  • No need to take time locating a buyer, waiting for him to show up as scheduled and/or wondering if the check will clear.

“We think there's another important reason it's beneficial to hay growers to supply us,” says Warner. “Even in a down hay market year, we're still going to buy a certain large quantity of hay.”