I had sent a photo to a friend in central Iowa a few weeks before that when we'd loaded some other decent hay. It was my first-ever load of bales that netted me $300 each at the farm. In all of my years of selling hay, it never seemed possible to get $300 out of a bale. My friend and I joked about how my new goal was to get $400 per bale and $10,000 on a load that was still legal on weight.
The truck was being loaded when my mail carrier drove in that day. I thought he may need a signature, so I went over to talk to him as Ted was putting the tie-down straps on the load of hay. (Ted's a professional. We know the rules on strapping your load of hay down, don't we, class?) Because my baler makes a decent bale, they tend to weigh up fairly well. Ted had taken a load last summer that was left over from the previous year's crop. I'd priced it the year before, but no one was interested. So I raised the price considerably last year and had it moved in no time. Ted likes to put two rows of bales across the length of his truck. Then we stack two more rows on top of those. Most truckers only stack a single row on top. That's why they get 22 to 25 bales on a load and Ted gets 30 bales.
Let's just say that Ted was a tad over on his weight goal for that load last summer. And by a tad, I mean just a few, um, tons.
We went easy on this particular load. There were 26 bales on the truck when we called it quits. That would at least show a good-faith effort on Ted's part if he were to encounter anyone with a badge in his travels.
"Overweight? Why, officer, I'm not even full!"
Case dismissed. Carry on.
My mail carrier mentioned how wild the hay market had been lately. I gave him some ballpark numbers on what these bales may bring and he was amazed. Then I mentioned how much I'd receive vs. the end user's ultimate tab. This load still had to travel 100 miles or so and probably would get some margin added by Ted, too. He's not working just for the fun of it.
Ted got the load to the scale in town and did some paperwork. Perhaps it was the acoustics where we were at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I heard slot machine bells and whistles go off when the final check was written.
I have new, upwardly-adjusted goals for hay sales now. You know, in case it turns dry and production falls short this summer. Maybe I should add a time component to the new goals. I'll be the only guy loading hay with a starter's pistol, a stopwatch and a security guard.
Guy No. 2
Jeff Ryan is Guy No. 2 in the operation of Two Guys Farming, Inc., near Cresco, IA.
Jeff farms during the day, but in the evening he e-mails his observations about life on the farm to his city-dwelling friends. He weaves these observations into entertaining stories that are sure to bring recognition, sometimes tears, but mostly a few smiles and outright belly laughs. Read more columns from Jeff Ryan here.