How do You Right-Size Equipment for Your Farm?

Bigger is sometimes better, but everything comes at a cost. Choosing bigger tractors and wider implements may mean a faster planting season, but can the farm shoulder the cost? The idea of finding the right size of machinery for your farm was tackled by John Molenhuis, business analysis and cost of production program lead, with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, at this year’s Southwest Agricultural Conference.

There are several factors to consider when decided on what piece of equipment to buy — fixed costs (especially on those items that rarely make it out of the shed), the trade-off of operating older but bigger equipment and your typical planting opportunity just to name a few. And that’s long before you begin the lease vs. buy discussions that seem to run in circles some days.

Hear more: See all RealAgriculture’s coverage of SWAC’14

Molenhuis says that each farmer should spend some time thinking about timeliness when consider what scale of equipment to buy. How tight is your planting window? Does a move to wider implements reduce the risk of excessively late planting? If so, is that balanced by the cost of changing your line up? Think about the spraying window — for some diseases, like fusarium head blight on wheat, the fungicide application window is only a few days, can you cover all the affected acres in that window? These are the types of timeliness questions to work through, he says.

The addition of precision farming to existing equipment may be one way to simply improve on what you already have, as autosteer and GPS guidance can save on overlap, adding efficiency by covering more ground in a day and reducing fill times. Perhaps it’s not new equipment you need, just new tools.

Molenhuis adds that the OMAF website has several machinery budget worksheets and calculators on the website, from Excel based calculators for machinery costs, to calculators to determine custom rates and some worksheets to help with those buy vs lease decisions.

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