Mitchell farmers find new, economical way to package horse hay | TheFencePost.com

Mitchell farmers find new, economical way to package horse hay

Gayle Smith
Potter, Neb.

Courtesy of Welsch FarmTom Welsch, Crystal Prall Welsch, Peggy Welsch, Tom Welsch Sr., John Welsch and Erica Curry, received a $25,000 prize for their Welsch's Bale in a Bag business plan from Invest Nebraska.

Next spring, horse enthusiasts will have an opportunity to purchase small square hay bales in more economical packaging that will prevent spoilage. “Our original plan was to replicate a small square bale that has been very popular over the years, and put it in a more economical package,” said Tom Welsch of Welsch’s Bale in a Bag of Mitchell, Neb.

“Two years ago, we started looking for ways to make it more economical to produce horse hay in the small square bales,” said Welsch. “We looked at the problems that were out there that we have to deal with to sell hay to the horse market. One day, I was selling some small square bales to a local feed store, and I noticed some bags of shavings. I thought it might be a good way to package and sell hay, so during the last two years we have been developing a process that will do that.”

“We looked at all the machinery out there, and we looked at the conventional small bales and knew we couldn’t make it work with our operation,” he continued. “We found some machinery we could retrofit to take those large square bales, bring them down, and package them into a bale in a bag. The bale in a bag is a 40 pound bale covered with poly plastic. It looks a lot like a shavings bale. Using this process allows us to harvest our hay crop economically, and market it in a user-friendly package.”

“The greatest thing about the bale is it’s weather-tight,” Welsch continued. “It is good for us as the processor, but it is good for the end-user as well. The wrapping will prevent water from getting into the bale and prevent spoilage. Horse owners can throw these bales on top of their horse trailer and haul them wherever they wish. If they want to put them in a tack room in the trailer, they won’t make a mess. For us, they stack very nicely on a pallet, and can be shipped across the country more economically than a regular small square bale.”

Welsch said they were able to find some material to package the bales that will allow them to breathe so the hay will not mold. “The technology we will be using will allow the bales to exhale moisture, but it won’t intake moisture into the bag,” he explained.

To get their plan up and running, they were able to get some assistance to help cover equipment and start-up costs. “We won $25,000 in a business plan competition sponsored by Invest Nebraska,” Welsch explained. “They have also helped us with a lot of the technicalities, and they have a team of lawyers on staff that have really guided us in the right direction. We also received a $75,000 matching funds grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and state Rural Development Commission for equipment.”

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When the operation is up and running next spring, Welsch said they could package anything from alfalfa, Timothy grass, and orchard alfalfa, to straw for bedding. “We have completed all the research and development,” Welsch said of the operation, which also includes his father, Tom Sr., and brother, John. “We were shooting for being up and running this spring, but we couldn’t get everything ready in time, so after making the necessary modifications this winter, we plan to be ready next spring.”

Welsch said they will start slow, but the operation is very scalable. “The equipment we will start with can produce an average of 60 bales an hour,” he said. “But, we can upgrade our equipment to produce 300 bales an hour.”

Once they get started, Colorado and the Front Range will be their main markets for the bales. “There are a lot of horses there,” he said. “Gradually, we plan to move south into Texas, Georgia and maybe eventually into Florida. We want to start on the Front Range at local feed stores.” The bales will also be available for purchase from Welsch.

Once the operation is up and running, Welsch said it is his hope that other farmers will become interested in the business. “We realize we can only put up so much hay on our own,” he said. “So, we either need to open up more locations, or sell equipment to other farmers throughout the country so they can start their own operations,” he explained. “We are leaning toward the second option. The equipment is very adaptable to small hay operations, and it is not overly expensive compared to what equipment costs today,” he said.

For more information about Welsch’s Bale in a Bag, Welsch can be reached at (308) 637-8551.

Next spring, horse enthusiasts will have an opportunity to purchase small square hay bales in more economical packaging that will prevent spoilage. “Our original plan was to replicate a small square bale that has been very popular over the years, and put it in a more economical package,” said Tom Welsch of Welsch’s Bale in a Bag of Mitchell, Neb.

“Two years ago, we started looking for ways to make it more economical to produce horse hay in the small square bales,” said Welsch. “We looked at the problems that were out there that we have to deal with to sell hay to the horse market. One day, I was selling some small square bales to a local feed store, and I noticed some bags of shavings. I thought it might be a good way to package and sell hay, so during the last two years we have been developing a process that will do that.”

“We looked at all the machinery out there, and we looked at the conventional small bales and knew we couldn’t make it work with our operation,” he continued. “We found some machinery we could retrofit to take those large square bales, bring them down, and package them into a bale in a bag. The bale in a bag is a 40 pound bale covered with poly plastic. It looks a lot like a shavings bale. Using this process allows us to harvest our hay crop economically, and market it in a user-friendly package.”

“The greatest thing about the bale is it’s weather-tight,” Welsch continued. “It is good for us as the processor, but it is good for the end-user as well. The wrapping will prevent water from getting into the bale and prevent spoilage. Horse owners can throw these bales on top of their horse trailer and haul them wherever they wish. If they want to put them in a tack room in the trailer, they won’t make a mess. For us, they stack very nicely on a pallet, and can be shipped across the country more economically than a regular small square bale.”

Welsch said they were able to find some material to package the bales that will allow them to breathe so the hay will not mold. “The technology we will be using will allow the bales to exhale moisture, but it won’t intake moisture into the bag,” he explained.

To get their plan up and running, they were able to get some assistance to help cover equipment and start-up costs. “We won $25,000 in a business plan competition sponsored by Invest Nebraska,” Welsch explained. “They have also helped us with a lot of the technicalities, and they have a team of lawyers on staff that have really guided us in the right direction. We also received a $75,000 matching funds grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and state Rural Development Commission for equipment.”

When the operation is up and running next spring, Welsch said they could package anything from alfalfa, Timothy grass, and orchard alfalfa, to straw for bedding. “We have completed all the research and development,” Welsch said of the operation, which also includes his father, Tom Sr., and brother, John. “We were shooting for being up and running this spring, but we couldn’t get everything ready in time, so after making the necessary modifications this winter, we plan to be ready next spring.”

Welsch said they will start slow, but the operation is very scalable. “The equipment we will start with can produce an average of 60 bales an hour,” he said. “But, we can upgrade our equipment to produce 300 bales an hour.”

Once they get started, Colorado and the Front Range will be their main markets for the bales. “There are a lot of horses there,” he said. “Gradually, we plan to move south into Texas, Georgia and maybe eventually into Florida. We want to start on the Front Range at local feed stores.” The bales will also be available for purchase from Welsch.

Once the operation is up and running, Welsch said it is his hope that other farmers will become interested in the business. “We realize we can only put up so much hay on our own,” he said. “So, we either need to open up more locations, or sell equipment to other farmers throughout the country so they can start their own operations,” he explained. “We are leaning toward the second option. The equipment is very adaptable to small hay operations, and it is not overly expensive compared to what equipment costs today,” he said.

For more information about Welsch’s Bale in a Bag, Welsch can be reached at (308) 637-8551.