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Using a Custom Harvester - Factors to Consider January 30, 2005. Brian Holmes Extension Agricultural Engineer Biological Systems Engineering Department University of Wisconsin - Madison.

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Using a custom harvester factors to consider january 30 2005
Using a Custom Harvester - Factors to ConsiderJanuary 30, 2005

Brian Holmes

Extension Agricultural Engineer

Biological Systems Engineering Department

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Why do dairymen hire Custom Operators ?Milk production suffers during harvest time.Crops suffer due to lack of time to manage them.Current equipment line is not up-to-date. Want to spend more time with cows.Want to spend more time with family.Willing to give up control of cropping.

Compliments of Chuck Grimes

Benefits of a Custom Operator

Rapid Harvest

-Fill storage quickly

-Might beat the weather

-Keeps hay at same stage of maturity

-More uniformity of forage quality

-More uniformity of forage moisture



Benefits of a Custom Operator

Reduced Capital Investment, Borrowing,


Lower Cost of Production

No Hired Labor

Custom Operator’s Labor Is Well

Trained and Works Hard

Less Oversight and Scheduling

Variety of Services Available

Higher Milk Production per Ton or Acre

Limitations of a Custom Operator

Some Existing Equipment Will Not Be Used

- ”If it doesn’t fit you must acquit”

- Cutting in 4 days and chopping

in 1 day doesn’t work

Rapid Harvest

- Need to be prepared to fill/pack storage

- Need to be prepared to cover storage



Limitations of a Custom Operator

Producer Must Give up Some Control

- Scheduling start date

- Plans for harvest decided early

- Producer’s equipment and labor

comes under the control of

custom operator

- Independence can be a handicap

to the system


Limitations of a Custom Operator

Communications Must Increase

- Specify feeding needs

- Specify feed preservation

- Status of crop maturity

- Services required

Quality Control Determination

- Moisture content

- Particle size determination

- Corn processing

- Inventory identification

- etc.

Degree of Trust vs Time Together


Custom Operator

Full Trust




Communications not established

Unreliable/unpredictable performance

Parties behave more independently

Issues can be external forces or

because of internal behaviors

No loyalty established

Good Communications

Consistent performance

Teamwork to resolve issue

Most Issues caused by

external forces

Loyalty to each other

Mutual benefits

Building Confidence

Producer Custom Operator

Letter of credit References

Personal References Insurance certificate

Pay on time Perform service adequately

and in timely manner

Communicate needs How break downs/employee

no shows are handled

Deliver on promises Obtain help from competitors

- don’t jump the gun or lease equipment to get the

job done




Building Confidence

Producer Custom Operator

Be flexible Be flexible

Have labor and Equipment Reliability

equipment ready to go - New Equipment

- Parts Inventory/access

Commit to agreement - Preventive maintenance

early (winter)

Seriously consider advice Give good advice

Plant different maturity corn

to open harvest window

Avoid surprises – Avoid surprises –

communicate early communicate early

Contract = meeting of the minds

= mutual agreement

1. Offer

2. Acceptance

3. Consideration

Written vs Verbal

- Written is more defensible in court

- “People remember things differently”

Protects all parties

Written Contract

Identifies the parties

What each party will do

What each party will not do

Service cost rates


Conflict resolution


Limitations on damages

Have attorney read

Signed by all parties


Producer Custom Operator

Talk Not Listening

Talk Not Listening

Talk Not Listening

. .

. .

. .


Producer Custom Operator

Not Listening Talk

Not Listening Talk

Not Listening Talk

. .

. .

. .


Producer Custom Operator

Listening Talk

Talk Listening

Read Written Materials

Written Materials Read

Its all about TEAM WORK!

Compliments of Chuck Grimes

Feed Production Team


Crop Producer


Storage Filler







Produce high quality and high quantity

feed with minimal losses in quantity and

quality at a reasonable cost


Select correct varieties

Plant on time

Fertilize properly

Harvest at correct time

Avoid harvest losses

Store properly – avoid storage losses

Feed properly

- Proper feed-out

- Feeding frequency



- Communicates Goals and Objectives

to the Team Members

- Assures Team Members Are Listening

- Assures Team Members Are

Communicating with Each Other

- Assures Team Members Are

Performing Up to Capabilities


Team has overall Goals and Objectives

- Tasks directed toward meeting

Goals and Objectives

Each team member has Goals,Objectives

and Tasks

Coach focuses team members on

overall Goals and Objectives

Who is your coach?


On-Farm Visit

- View feed storage

- View traffic routes

Provide field maps

- Acreage per field

- Access

- Landmarks

- Field names

- Special features


Record keeping

- Forms to use

- Crop yield information

- Equipment hour meter readings

- Equipment settings


- Directly to custom operator not others

- Explain what you want to make it right

- Complain early

- Complain calmly

Producer Can Reduce Harvest Time and Cost

Fields close together

Fields close to farmstead

Large fields of regular shape

Smooth fields

Remove stones and other obstructions

- Mark obstructions

Wide gates and drives

Farm roads are smooth

Maneuvering room at storage

Maintain communications

- Work through custom operator

- Don’t micro-manage custom

operator’s employees

Comparing Custom Operators’ Services

What services are available

Charge rates – per hour, per acre, per ton etc.


- References

- Past performance for you

- How breakdowns are handled

- How much reserve capacity

*extra equipment

* extra labor

* how tightly scheduled



Comparing Custom Operators’ Services


- Liability (on/off farm) – certificate

- Workers compensation

Written vs Verbal Contract

Payment Schedule

- Pre-Pay

- Before leaving the farm

- Soon after work is done

- Monthly payment plan

- Discounts for early/prompt payment

- Late payment penalties