When clients create a new demand, custom operators respond.

That's why Tim Dewey Hay, Cimarron, KS, bought a custom slicer from an Oregon company last August. A few of Dewey's feedlot clients wanted to switch from a traditional grind to a longer, 6-8" cut.

Steve Dewey manages the hay company, a hay marketing, custom harvesting and grinding business. He's a son of Tim Dewey, who heads a mega farm operation with more than $50 million in annual sales.

In addition to the hay operation, Tim Dewey Farm and Cattle Co. includes crop acreage, 1,000 beef cows and the 8,500-cow Cimarron Dairy, which buys all its hay from Tim Dewey Hay.

In 1980, when Dewey started the hay company, it sold 2,000 tons. Today it markets 200,000 tons per year, of which 40,000 tons are grown on Dewey land and 160,000 tons are purchased from area growers. It has 40 employees during the peak summer season.

Tim Dewey Hay custom swaths and bales for three clients, grinds hay for about 100, and so far has three custom slicing customers. The biggest is a good-sized feedlot; Dewey processes 10,000 bales for it each year.

The slicer takes a 4 × 8' bale and moves it through a grid of knives that looks something like a French fry cutter.

“Leaf retention is still there and I get a more consistent chop length,” says Steve Dewey. “With a grinder, if a feedlot wants a 6" grind and I put in a 6" screen, I'll get a 6" chop on about 10% of it. The other 90% is 3” to fines.”

Grinding was especially difficult during the recent drought.

“The grinders pulverized the hay,” says Dewey. “No one could get a consistent chop.”

The slicer lets him process a bale for customers who want a 6-8" chop and 90% of it will be that length.

In time, he hopes to charge $10/bale to run hay through the slicer. For now, he's satisfied to recoup costs until his slicing business becomes more established.

“I'd love to slice all the hay and sell all my grinders,” he says.

More feedlots are asking for longer-chop hay, but Dewey cautions that they need mixers that can handle it. “For people who want big hay and have the right equipment, I can make it happen,” he says.