Farm Custom Rate Survey Shows What Iowans are Charging and Paying in 2024

Farm Custom Rate Survey Shows What Iowans are Charging and Paying in 2024

Newly released survey includes averages and ranges for popular farming tasks in Iowa

Article courtesy of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

AMES, Iowa – Farmers who depend on custom work or provide custom services can review rates charged by others across the state in the latest Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey.

The 2024 report was published in the March edition of Ag Decision Maker and includes 130 responses and 2,805 custom rates provided by Iowa farmers, custom operators and farm managers.

Farm tasks in the report include everything from planting to harvest, with cost data that reflect the average, median and range for each task.

The rates in the report are expected to be charged or paid in 2024, and they include fuel and labor (unless otherwise noted). The average price for diesel fuel (highway-retail including taxes) was assumed to be $3.92 per gallon (as projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in early February 2024). Rental rates for some machinery items are shown in the last section of the report, along with a worksheet for estimating rental rates for other items.

Ann Johanns, program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and editor of Ag Decision Maker, said this year’s numbers seem more in line with the current farm economy.

“We’ve seen increases in rates the past two years (3% to 10% and 10% to 15%),” said Johanns. “The steady to slight decline in rates generally seen across the 2024 survey is closer to changes observed prior to the last two years.”

While the projected fuel price increased, production challenges and crop prices seem to have impacted custom rates as well.

Johanns said it’s important for custom operators to know the market for custom farming and to know their costs.

“If the custom operator isn’t covering their costs, they are operating at a loss,” she said. “If they don’t have a good handle on their cost to operate, there are helpful resources on Ag Decision Maker.”

New for 2024 is additional insight into who responded to each operation shown. Of the 2,468 who responded with usable rates: 48% are service providers, 32% are service users, 8% are both service providers and users, and 12% are unknown. The sources of the 69 rates reported for machinery rentals are: 38% machinery owners, 35% machinery renters, 11% machinery owners and renters, and 12% unknown. The sources of the 108 rates reported for wages are: 81% employers, 7% employees, 2% employer and employee, and 9% unknown.

The rate survey is intended only as a guide. Actual custom rates may vary according to availability of machinery in a given area, timeliness, operator skill, field size and shape, crop conditions and the performance characteristics of the machine being used.

“Ultimately, the Custom Rate survey is a starting point in discussions, but any custom rate charged, or paid, should cover the operator’s cost of owning and operating the machinery being used,” said Johanns. “Just using the results of the survey alone might not be the right answer for an individual operation.”

Exploring the Cattle Industry with The American Cattlemen Podcast

Exploring the Cattle Industry with The American Cattlemen Podcast

By Jessica Graham

Podcasts offer a wealth of information and opportunities for cattle producers, fitting conveniently into their busy schedules. On the American Cattlemen Podcast, we interview experienced producers and it’s almost like you’re standing next to them listening in on a conversation. “We interview, producers, manufactures, vets, but we also interview entertainers,” host Gale McKinney states. Some of the previous entertainers include: Nashville based singer-songwriter Hayley Payne, Ned LeDoux, Roxi Copeland, and singer, actor, model and cowboy R.W. Hampton.

Current News
One of the primary benefits to listening to The American Cattlemen Podcast is the community connection with news and events. One of the events covered is the wildfires in the southern USA impacting cattle producers. First and foremost, our hearts and prayers go out for all, especially the firefighters, farmers and ranchers effected by the wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma. We know over a million acres have been decimated, homes and ranches destroyed, and cattle operations have been ripped apart. We continue to support and pray for Texas and Oklahoma during this time. Other current news regarding current events, include cattle inventory projections, and the ag economy are discussed as well.

We also cover cattle conventions, like The National Cattlemen Beef Association (NCBA) annual conference. The NCBA Cattle Con, is the oldest and largest event for the cattle industry in the United States. We know it’s not feasible for you to attend every year, so we have you covered. As the leader in cattle news, we attend The NCBA Trade Show. This year, it offered attendees the chance to explore the newest equipment, technology, pharmaceuticals, and feed supplements for cattlemen.

Key Benefits of Producer Profiles
Our Producer Profiles focus on ranches located across the nation. You can learn about their unique history and current dynamics on their ranch. It’s always interesting to share and learn key success factors other cattlemen have uncovered, especially when it comes to marketing and capturing a premium on your quality cattle. By incorporating The American Cattlemen Podcasts into your routine, you will gain valuable knowledge, improve your operation, and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving agricultural industry.

The American Cattlemen Podcast wanted to inform and educate on a broad level, but we also want to connect people with people. According to Gale McKinney, owner, producer, and host of The American Cattlemen Podcast, we thought “Why can’t we interview these producers, talk to them about their sales, talk to them about their families, and bring that out to other producers? That has been a joy. I love doing that,” says Gale McKinney. Gale has the pleasure of getting to connect with cattle producers across the US. He learns about what makes their story, their operation unique and delves into some secrets uncovered. “I just interviewed a young man that just started about 10 years ago, he wasn’t even in the industry and now he has 400 head of cattle,” says Gale. Because of the vision for cattlemen to learn from and about each other, the producer profiles have taken off.

Industry Influencers: Shorty’s Caboy Hattery
Recently, we were able to interview Drake Jones, with Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, a USA company. Shorty started the business in 1990. She’s a former rodeo competitor and was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Shorty is one of the only female owned , started and operated hatteries in the USA. ”We’re a custom hattery. We measure your head, build a mold, and then build the hat around that mold.” Hats are manufactured in Oklahoma.

Sometimes we hear “I don’t want a good hat because I’d ruin it”, I often say “If you had a good hat, it’s a lot harder to ruin it,” says Drake. Shorty’s uses beaver pelts to make the highest quality hats. By listening to the podcast, it’s clear time and effort is poured out into every custom hat. Thank you Shorty’s Caboy Hattery for all you do!

Each podcast is different and offers a new set of prospectives and advice. You can stay up-to-date on the podcasts by subscribing to on your favorite podcast platform, or by checking out our website at:

Anatomy of Sale Hosting

Anatomy of Sale Hosting

By Jaclyn Krymowski

Hosting a sale can wreak havoc on your nerves, even if you have been doing it for years.

But the rewards of putting yourself out there can be tremendous for your name, business brand, and reputation. Hosting a sale can help you establish your herd among your peers, network and attract buyers who will pay for the full value of your breeding stock.

While there will always be last minute hurdles, you can reduce sale day jitters by planning ahead.

Every Sale Starts with the Animals
Your consignments are the backbone of your sale. In the months leading up, you have plenty of time to consider which animals will be sold and make them look their best in the sale ring.

Whether you are exclusively selling your own stock or taking consignments from other breeders, you need to make sure that they all fit within the framework of your sale. Consider your ideal buyer.

Are genomics a big selling point? Are buyers in your areas hyper-focused on health or maternal traits? Are you hoping to capture seedstock producers, showmen or regional ranches?

Lay out the goals of your sale and set benchmarks for animals that will entice your ideal buyers.

In the 2018 VitaFirm blog post How to Host a Successful Bull Sale, Doug Slattery, COO of 44 Farms, shared his insights:
“You have to have the product for your customers, and you have to have them presented correctly using good genetics, nutrition and health. Customer service and customer relationships are key. You can’t expect customers to come and buy. You have to give them reasons to come and buy. The genetics, nutrition, service and relationships all have to come together. If one is missing, it won’t work.”

Understanding what you have to offer helps you develop highlights and ads for publications or online platforms. This information will help you define a target audience so you can draw them in for the sale. Weave this information across the sale catalog and other promotions accomplished in advance.

Doing the Work
There’s plenty of legwork to be done ahead of sale day, and you don’t want to short yourself on time or resources. One of the best ways to learn how to manage a sale is to attend other local auctions, cattle and non-cattle alike, to get an idea of how other managers create a flow and schedule.

Arrange the big ticket items first, and then handle finer details. This includes lining up an auctioneer, a sale manager, if needed, an online real-time sale presence, or any outside hires, such as additional labor to move cattle and handle bookkeeping.
After creating your objectives for your marketing, it’s dually important to create a to-do list and a timeline of steps to make sure you don’t overlook anything.

Art of the Sales Catalog
Another major component you’ll need to put in place is the sales catalog. While there will be a lot of changes made, it is best to get started on this several months in advance. This not only allows time to ensure a polished, final product for print and digital distribution, but it also gives you time to make decisions on your consignments and the sale order.

Remember, your catalog is not just a marketing tool. It gives buyers insight into your operation and your values and shows them what you are most proud of. And of course, it is also practical as it gives potential buyers information about your animals. Here is your opportunity to highlight pedigrees, EPDs, genomic details and like.

Start your catalog by compiling the information you need. For cows, it’s important to highlight their success in the herd. For heifers, be sure to note any breeding information, if applicable, and information about their dams’ performance. If you are offering bulls or semen, provide a few detailed notes of their impact in your breeding program to prove their value. Finally, be sure your terms of sale are printed clearly near the front of the catalog.

Have a plan in place to distribute catalogs in advance, be it online, in hand or a mixture of the two. It could be a worthy investment to mail hard copies of your catalog to a select list of likely buyers or past buyers.

The last two weeks before the sale, the focus is on day-of logistics and customer service. This includes pen layout, ring layout, and creating the final sale order. (If you are using a full service auctioneer or sales crew, your involvement in this might be minimal. However, be sure it’s on your list to review and approve so you avoid last-minute surprises.) It’s also a time to start further working with customers to answer questions and meet any specific needs.

The Big Day
The week leading up to the sale is a critical time. Make sure facilities are set up to efficiently move cattle through the ring and back into pens. And make sure it is easy for the crew to load out cattle. As well, ensure final pregnancy and health checks will be accomplished and last minute veterinary or transportation documentation made available.

Remember that your service does not stop when the gavel falls for the last time.. Reputation is built by offering cattle that buyers are happy with.

If you have hired a sale manager to help with the sale, they should have a system in place for bidder numbers and procedures for cashing out. If you plan to do that yourself as the host, it’s important you’ve created a system to cover all the bases.

If you have made the decision to host a sale, congratulations. This article is offered as a means of supporting that endeavor. It can be overwhelming and difficult to see the forest for the trees. So, stick to the basics, especially for your first sale. Start small but reasonable and don’t break the bank. If you plan for a recurring event, make it a goal to to improve each time, build your reputation, and find a niche for your brand and your herd.

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