In last week’s eHay Weekly, we reported on the recent challenges of finding trucks to move hay from supply-rich areas to drought-stricken Central Plains states. Chad Pinson’s solution: Move hay by rail.

Pinson is the CEO of Central States Alfalfa, Inc., in Lyons, KS. Along with growing alfalfa on 2,000 acres, Central States does custom harvesting on 15,000 acres in Kansas and neighboring states and buys and sells hay in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming. The company has its own transport division – Total Services Logistics. But it also works closely with a number of small trucking businesses and several of the country’s largest commercial transport firms, including J.B. Hunt, to move hay.

“Moving hay around is always a challenge, but this year it was just out-and-out tough,” says Pinson. “There just aren’t as many trucks on the road as there used to be. It was definitely a year where you had to be creative to make things work.”

Pinson worked with two railroad companies to ship hay grown in the Dakotas to terminal points in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It was then put on trucks and delivered to Central States customers. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he says. “This seemed like the year to jump into that arena.”

Rail transport is not necessarily any cheaper than hauling by truck, he says. “But when you’re dealing with large volumes of hay, it’s a lot more efficient. You can put 75 tons of product on a railcar and you can load 40 cars in a week. It takes about two weeks to get that hay from where it’s loaded onto the railcar to the destination point for offloading.

“For a business like ours, that leads to more consistency. You deal with one large load coming in at once rather than a bunch of different loads coming in at different times of the day.”