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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Forages > The dollars and cents of bale wrapping haylage

The dollars and cents of bale wrapping haylage

Margot Rudstrom, REE - Ag Business Management

August 26, 2006

The interest in bale wrappers as a method for storage of haylage has grown in recent years. A grass-based beef producer in Milan, MN invested in a bale wrapper to produce haylage for his winter feed supply for his beef herd. I have been assessing the costs associated with this system of storing haylage.

Bales at 40 - 50% moisture are wrapped in plastic immediately after baling. A 5 foot x 4 foot bale weighs between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds. photo: bailing hay

How much does it cost to own and operate a bale wrapper for making haylage? The purchase price of the bale wrapper is $20,000. Fixed costs include depreciation, interest, insurance, storage and repairs. Assuming 1,000 bales a year are wrapped, the annual fixed cost per bale is $2.67 on an as is basis.

The plastic wrap costs $80 per roll. Two rolls of plastic can wrap 70 bales in 5 to 6 layers of plastic. Plastic caps are placed at the ends of the row of wrapped bales. Plastic and end caps cost $2.43 per bale.

Estimating the amount of time required to wrap 1,000 bales is an important part of figuring the operating costs. It will affect the labor cost and the cost for operating the tractor that is needed to place the bales in the wrapper. The amount of time needed will depend on the number of bales that can be wrapped per hour. Manufacture specifications indicate 120 bales per hour can be wrapped. This assumes bales are continuously fed into the wrapper. If we are able to wrap 100 bales per hour, it would take 10 hours to wrap 1,000 bales. If we are able to wrap 40 bales per hour it would take 25 hours to wrap 1,000 bales.

It takes two people to run the bale wrapper. One person transports the bales from the field to the wrapper while the other person feeds the bales into the machine. Labor is charged at $13.50 per hour for each person.

The cost of operating the 100-horsepower tractor is estimated at $17.50 per hour. The costs for the tractor include both overhead costs and operating costs.

The table provides a breakdown of the costs of owning and operating the bale wrapper assuming 1,000 bales are wrapped each year. Wrapping fewer bales per hour affects the labor and tractor costs. The fixed costs also increase a bit as a result of increased repairs. The total cost of wrapping assuming 100 bales per hour are wrapped is $6.09 per bale. When the wrapping rate is 40 bales per hour the total cost increases to $7.72 per bale

    Cost per bale
(100 bales/hr)
Cost per bale
(40 bales/hr)
Plastic Wrap $2.43 $2.43
Fuel & Lubrication $0.11 $0.11
Labor $0.71 $1.78
Tractor $0.17 $0.44
Total Variable Cost $3.42 $4.76
Total Fixed Cost $2.67 $2.96
Total Cost $6.09 $7.72

It is important to note these costs are for the bale wrapping operation only. They do not include the costs associated with mowing, baling, storing or feeding the haylage.

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