Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of cowards and courage

Today a bit of a rant.

Last Friday, there erupted on the local Craigslist (of all places!) a nasty series of posts regarding haying, farmers, quality of the hay, etc. Someone obviously is really unhappy with the prices farmers charge here, and one of the participants took pains to take a swipe at me personally.

Let me just call it out now-whoever posted to me, is a coward!

Not enough backbone to sign their name, and not even brave enough to chose to accept return emails via the Craigslist remailer. Having done hay up here, I am sure my anger was echoed by the many hard working folks attempting agriculture here in Alaska. I was furious at the exchange of misinformation and the general concensus that they are all out to rip people off.

Myself included of course-I mean, who else brings in van loads of hay to the Valley, and uses a forklift to offload? No one. Which is how it was easy to deduce the post was aimed directly at me personally. Since I seldom post the landed price online anywhere (because I typically don't know exactly what it will be until just a few days before it arrives anyway) except a local Yahoo group, I know it originated from someone who is either on the group-or has a buddy forwarding stuff to them.

They claim that my cost is under $400 a ton for hay.

Here's my response-it includes the offending post:

Reply to: sale-769517842@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-07-25, 9:26AM AKDT

$3000 / 22 = $136
+ $235 if you believe that you can get it a for a lot less even one person admits she pays $150 for her stuff but charges over $500 when it gets here

$136 + $235 = $371
$136 + $150 = $286

if it costs another couple hundred dollars to get it from the port spread that over 22 tons and it adds maybe $10 a ton

that means the hay costs around $300-$385 to get it here but those same people selling it for $500 a ton and more are claiming they are all doing us a favor and selling it at cost

funny that their costs is so different depending on who's asking! ever wonder why the price is never mentioned in public?


Since this is an OBVIOUS slam at me personally.....here you go, a FEW FACTS for your enlightenment.

The cost to ship a van from L48 is MORE than $3000. Why don't you take that number, and add in the fuel surcharge? Its over 30%. Add in another $1000, approximately, with another surcharge increase coming in October of about $14, $15 a ton. Growers COST is over $200 a ton. Of course the grower shouldn't make a profit for his labor and investment, right? Because after all, everyone is out to rip off the horse hay buying public, right? Gimme me a break!

Then, must be moved from farm (trucking!!) to the press. Pressing COST is $50 a TON. Weighing and wrapping, or just wrapping, is another $10 to $15 a TON. From there, must get to port (more trucking!! Know what it costs to roll a semi these days?) Do you think the hay magically loads itself into the containers or what? More expense! Then there is destination charge-what you get to pay for bringing the van to your location. What's it cost YOU to drive to Anchorage and back with a semi? What do you think the overhead is for a professional commercial truck driver per hour?

Gee, I add it up to about $450 a ton, before all the trucking! And, I don't know the exact cost of the hay to the grower....but it IS more than $200 a ton. My most recent invoice is for $13,939.20. I have it on my home computor. I'll be happy to email you the scan if you need proof.

I spend $70 a load mailing back the ropes on the bundles. My phone bill goes up another $45 each vanload. I spend about $50 a month for ads-whether I have a van or not each month. I have to reimburse my boss for equipment time and fuel. I also give up two weekends for each van, usually 8 hours per day. I spend many hours putting these loads together, speaking with people, showing the hay that I have on hand, trying to get them what they need.

Since you are convinced I am ripping people off, please feel free to step into the void and DO IT YOURSELF. Contract for some Anderson hay from WA state, see what it costs to get it here-and hope you get GOOD hay, not junk since you are new at it!

Blogger back in:

A follow up post detailed the use of the forklift and loading it into pickups. And in my attempted response to them, I didn't even include the extra $150 to $250 it costs me to hire some help should the van be impossible to offload using equipment. If it has to be done by hand, you can bet the majority of the customers here aren't going to work at it! Nope, they would rather sit in their truck and watch someone else load it for them-and some even expect it.

I guess my point here is that I don't have to do this. I do it because I prefer to feed the finest quality hay I can get to the horses in my care. I do it because other people do recognize it, rely upon it, because some horses don't fare well on other forages, because some are deadly allergic to local, etc. We need this source here-and you can bet what I charge is cheaper BY WEIGHT than what you can find at the feed stores-and higher quality too!

But I sure don't need to be accused of lying.

I have been called all number of things over the years-it doesn't bother me since a lot of it is probably true :) Opinionated, forceful, too aggressive, independent, know-it-all, etc. But no one has EVER called me a liar before-and for good reason. It doesn't happen.

So, all you lookie-lou's here.....pass it along to your buddies and the folks that are having you snoop on their behalf-I will be happy to discuss the hay cost, more than willing to fax the invoice on the vans. I am more than happy to explain that the 30 to 40 hours I devote to each van is NOT tacked onto the price. And when you are unable to purchase local hay due to the poor supply, and feed store is out (and that happens too) I will not ever turn anyone away. I care about horses too much for that-and I don't let ego and jealousy dictate my feed choices.


Lori said...

You know, I wish the folks that do not like living here would just go back to America.
I'm tired of those who come up here for the rustic lifestyle only to pave paradise and try and make it look like the place they came from. I just don't get it!
I wonder if the CL poster realizes how little hay farmland there is here. Way less then there was 10 yrs ago.
When Point Mac becomes the suburb of Anchorage there will be even less hay available.
When Palmer gets its new highway alternative it will be going right through hay farms.
When the next generation won't carry on the farming tradition they sell the homestead to a developer, turning hayfields turn into apartment complexes.

I have a great appreciation for those who produce hay here, knowing exactly how challenging it is.
I also appreciate those who go to the effort to import quality hay when local supply has not met the demand.
Thanks for hanging in there!

suvalley said...

Lori, some years ago I idly figured out the number of hay acres needed to provide for one horse, year round.

Given the average yeild of around 50 bales an acre (in a good year, and presuming it's dry enough to square bale-and that you get the single cutting typical) it takes more than two acres to feed just one horse.

I figure around 120, to 130 bales of average 50+ pound bales, with some cushion for loss or additional hay fed due to extreme temperatures.

How many horses are there in Alaska? No one knows for sure, but I have heard it said that the number is between 15 and 30 thousand. It wouldn't surprise me if it was near the upper number, given the influx of new horses over the past decade.....I am sure the state vet's office has accurate numbers-but if you recall, Janet Burts brought up over 125 PMU horses in just two years by herself.

The added demand of those horses was one of my primary reasons for opposing their arrival-where would the feed come from to support them all? It's not like farming and agriculture is supported very well here by the community, you know. Darned little acreage is being cleared for hay lands-nearly all for other crops or subdivisions, like you pointed out.

Should Pt MacKenzie get its bridge, who knows how much more hay acreage is going to be sliced up into acre lots for the Anchorage expansion? Most of it, I am sure.

We need our farmers here, we desperately do. I always have in the back of mind-what happens if the supply chain breaks? What happens when containers such as I bring in (and the feed stores too) are unable to ship anything up due to disaster, economy, or ?? What happens then, to all the livestock depending on the many 1000s of tons of hay imported every calendar year here? Its not just horses, its cattle, sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats, pigs, you name it. Alaska is unable to provide for its own livestock population and I think that is a very uncertain place to be.

Some of the complainers are ignorant morons who have no clue just how much work it is, making hay. I well remember sitting on the baler, knotter fouled, baler intake stuffed tight with yet another shear pin broken-in tears becuase the rain was coming and I only had a quarter of the field baled-with ten head depending on ME! The many hours spent on the tractor, bouncing along, being ever so careful of the settings so that I didn't scrape up debris or dirt, that the fertilizer was spread evenly in multiple passes (and those 80 pound bags were a terrible strain for me to lift up and dump into the broadcast spreader), that the mower was the right height, that I was running the correct gear and rpm's on the pto unit, etc, etc, etc. If I have it right, it was about seven passes over every single square foot of the feild with equipment-from fertilizing to bales on the ground.

Yeah, right, its easy! NOT!!!

JBurts said...

Do your math SuValley - 125 horses brought to Alaska was not over the course of 2 years - nor were all 125 horses born yet. We brought in pregnant mares that foaled out (3 loads over 2 years) and two loads of foals in 2 years...there were only 20-21 foals per load...there were only 18 mares max. per load. Not all mares foaled. Just think - you could have sold your colts and fillies right???? Don't you own a stud horse that you advertise breeding with or did you have him fixed?

suvalley said...

Janet...what, you googled yourself to find this post from 2007??

Ok, here is my math: three loads of mares at 18 each (some of which were bred) is 54. And another 40 to 42 foals. That is nearly 100 head without any resulting babies, yes?

And surprise surprise, you weren't the only one bringing in loads of PMU horses either-add in another 45 or 50 (if memory serves).

The big issue was your secrecy, your attacks on locals, your refusing help, your lack of honesty, and your incessant need to pick fights.

Water under the bridge, and you don't live here any longer so why bother to comment? Besides, these horses are (hopefully) in decent homes and have been for years.

JBurts said...

Hi - Once again - a clarification - the post was made in 2008, July to be exact. Oh, and by the way, I was told about your inaccuracy. Just clarifying...as I see you still have your vile attitude. No need to respond...you have shown everyone that reads this your true colors. God Bless you...may you find a better path to follow.