Caleb Lipscomb’s 1907 Hay Experiment

A report, “Conditions Affecting the Value of Market Hay”, published by the Department of Agriculture in July 1909 issue of the Farmers’ Bulletin (362), included an experiment conducted by Caleb Lipscomb.

Caleb Lipscomb had arrived in Liberal in 1899, coming from Fort Scott, and had founded the Lipscomb Grain & Seed Co. J. P. Moore in “The Strange Town of Liberal, Missouri” briefly comments on Lipscomb, “Mr. Lipscomb was a prominent mentor in the socialist movement which once gained considerable strength here. He was several times a candidate for high office on that party’s national ticket. He was not associated with either the Freethought or spiritualist cults. His religion was with the Christian Church.”

The paragraphs on Lipscomb’s experiment:

In Iowa and surrounding States considerable hay is stacked in the field, and the loss due to stacking is not thought to be enough to warrant the building of a barn for hay only.

In 1907 experiments were carried on by Mr. C. Lipscomb, of Liberal, Mo., to determine what the loss would be when timothy remained in the stack for several months. The hay was hauled with a wagon and pitched on the stack by hand, one man doing the building or stacking.

Two stacks were put up in 1007 under conditions that would compare favorably with those of the average farm in this section. The first stack was baled the latter part of December. In order to find out the loss of hay at market prices it was decided to put as nearly as possible only one kind of hay into a bale.

When hay is baled by the ton it is customary for the crew to throw out the spoiled hay from the top of the stack. If the sides are badly spoiled, all that can be removed easily with a fork is also thrown out. The balance is baled with the good hay, which results in there usually being several grades in a bale.

In this experiment the sides were raked off very carefully with a garden rake and all bad spots were cut out with a hay knife. When the baling was finished there were two grades instead of several, as is often the case. These grades were a fair No. 1, and a “No-grade” hay, there being 13.090 pounds of the former and 2,870 pounds of the latter, which made the loss of unsalable hay amount to nearly 20 per cent.

The second stack was baled the following March and the loss amounted to a little over 40 per cent.

The reason why the loss seemed so large was because nothing but the good hay was baled. Of course in raking out the spoiled hay a little good hay was lost, but the amount was insignificant. Had the badly stained hay been baled with the good, as is often done, the loss in pounds would have been less, but hay baled in this manner would have brought less total profit than was received by baling only the good hay. The reason for this, as stated previously, is because the presence of any. stained or spoiled hay on the outside of the bale, even though it be a small amount, causes the buyer to become suspicious and think that, the hay is “sandwiched.” Had the stacks been put up by the use of sweep rakes and stacking machines, the loss would probably have been less because the stack would have been more compact and not so liable to let in rain or settle with soft spots.

On an 80-acre field yielding a ton and a half of hay per acre, a 20 per cent loss would amount to 24 tons, or $192 when hay is worth $8 per ton, which was its value in December, when the first stack was baled. The loss on an 80-acre field, if baled at the time the second stack was baled, would have amounted to $384. According to these figures a hay barn would pay for itself in a few years.

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