Experienced hay marketers commonly repeat the same two messages about the USA hay market. First, the majority of the market is requesting high percentage or pure alfalfa hay. Second, the hay needs to be packaged in large square bales for ease of trucking and to achieve full weight allowance to minimize trucking cost. Trucking costs range depending upon load width and availability of backhauls.
Prior to baling, producers must consider the form of hay packaging they will use. Both the trucker and end user must be consulted to determine their wants and needs. Packaging options include large squares, small squares, large round hard core, large round hard core narrow width, and large round soft core.
Large Squares are the preferred package for several reasons:
- The bales are relatively dense. Trailers can usually be loaded to full weight restriction, which minimizes the cost of freight.
- The width of the load does not exceed eight feet. This allows travelling at night through all jurisdictions.
- A rectangular load with straight sides and top has reduced wind resistance compared to round bales.
There are many large square bale sizes, depending upon the baler manufacturer and model number. The sizes listed below are rounded to the nearest inch.
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Small squares are less dense than large square bales. The physical labour requirement for loading and unloading is considerable, unless the producer has the specialized equipment for handling small squares. Relatively fewer buyers have requirements for small squares.
Large Round Hard Core bales range from 57 to 66 inches wide, depending upon the baler manufacturer and model number. The most common widths are 60, 61, 61.5 and 62 inches.
Maximum bale diameters range from 45-75 inches. Two disadvantages of large round bales are reduced density compared to large squares and over-width loads which result in travel restrictions. Height restrictions may be an issue, depending upon the bale diameter and how they are stacked.
Large Round Hard Core Narrow Width bales range from 45 to 48 inches wide, depending on the baler manufacturer and model number.
Maximum bale diameters range from 48 to 75 inches. The advantage of narrow width bales is the ability to travel without over-width permits.
Large Round Soft Core bales have the same disadvantages of hard core bales, plus the reduced weight per bale due to lower density.
- Hi Boy trailers (either two or three axles) are 48 to 53 feet long. The deck is usually five feet high. Therefore, bales can be stacked 8.5 feet high for a load height of 13.5 feet .
- Drop Deck or Step Deck trailers (either two or three axles) are 48-53 feet long. The top deck is usually 11 feet long and five feet high. The lower section is usually three feet high, enabling a hay height of 10.5 feet to achieve the maximum allowable weight.
- Double Drop Deck or Detach Double Drop trailers (either two or three axles) are commonly 50 feet long (11 feet front, 29 feet well, 10 feet back). The front section is five feet high, the well section is two feet high, and the back section is three feet high. The well section enables a hay height of 11.5 feet to achieve the maximum allowable weight. The disadvantage of Double Drop trailers, is they normally weigh about 5,000 lbs more than Drop Deck trailers.
Van lengths (either two or three axles) are either 48 or 53 feet long. Inside widths are either 96 inches or 101 inches. Inside heights are 96 to 110 inches. To ensure bales fit, bale length needs to be set at least 6 inches less than the inside van width. Vans can be loaded using a ramp where the bobcat enters the van. When loading from ground level, some producers have built "plungers" to push forward a few rows at a time.
Load Heights and Weights
When hauling to the USA, the height, width and weight restrictions vary by State, and highways within the State. You must know the route and research the restrictions for each highway along the route.
Contact the Department of Transportation (DOT) who is the Regulator for each individual State and be prepared to invest a significant amount of time and effort into the process. You must stay in contact with each jurisdiction to be aware of updates and changes.
For those without trucking experience, consider working with or consulting experienced trucking companies.
Over-height and over-width permits can be purchased. Often the permits are not valid during holidays when there are high volumes of traffic. In some states over-width loads are not permitted on the Interstate highways, but are permitted on State highways.
Hay bales are considered a "divisible load" as bales can be removed. Over-weight permits cannot be purchased for divisible loads.
As a starting reference, the common maximum load height is 13.5 feet. Permits can be purchased for loads 14.5 feet. The maximum allowable weights include the weight of the truck, trailer and load. Therefore, the lighter trailers can carry heavier loads.
The weight limit on Interstate Highways is 80,000 lbs for both double and triple axle trailers. Other USA highways have limits as high as 89,500 lbs.
In Canada, maximum allowable weight for triple axle trailers is 100,000 lbs and 87,000 lbs for double axle trailers.
When goods (hay) are imported into the United States, they are subject to certain formalities involving U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The goods are required to be "entered" or declared to CBP through a formal "entry of merchandise" document which carries reporting requirements to CBP that can be complex.
For loads with a value greater than $2,000, a federally licensed customs broker is required.
The broker acts on behalf of the "importer of record" who is either the seller or purchaser of the hay (has a financial interest in the transaction). By law only a licensed customs broker may prepare and file entry documentation. The broker will set up a Customs Bond ($400-500) for the "importer of record" and charge a brokerage fee for each load (approx. $25/load).
Another option for the hay producer is to contact a third party who is already exporting hay. A common arrangement will involve the third party purchasing the hay from the Saskatchewan producer, as the third party needs to have a financial interest in the hay to be listed as the "importer of record" with CBP.
For detailed information on exporting, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Links with detailed information and customs broker listings include:
- Basic Importing and Exporting
- Tips for New Importers and Exporters
- Importing into the United States
- Customs Brokers
- Locate a Port of Entry - Air, Land or Sea.
For loads with a value less than $2,000, individuals may make an "Informal Entry."
An Informal Entry is made without the use of a customs broker with the following documents: A "Bill of Sale" and a "U.S. Food and Drug Administration Prior Notice." Exporters need to be certain they understand the procedure completely before shipping under this option.
To get started, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Click on Prior Notice System Interface Login to get started. The tariff number for hay is 121490, the FDA product code for hay is 70BY-06.
Assurance of being paid is a prime issue for the seller.
The surest method is to have payment deposited prior to loading the truck. If this is not possible, ask for and check references from the buyer. Send only one load at a time and wait until payment is received before sending another.
Another option is to sell to a third party (auctioneer, experienced hay marketer) who pays for the hay prior to export.