While my husband and I milked our cows last night, a swather zipped through our fields, mowing down our first crop of alfalfa, along with the triticale and rye we planted as cover crops.
Swathing is one of the many jobs we hire others to do for us. We are lucky to have several dairy farms in our neighborhood that regularly do custom work for other farms. Our list of custom hire jobs also includes merging and chopping haylage; raking, baling, and wrapping baleage; baling dry hay; planting and chopping corn.
There are several reasons why custom hire is a smart business decision for our farm:
- Custom hire means someone else is sitting in the tractor, swather, or chopper. Put another way, this allows us to hire part-time help that comes with incredible expertise. This has two benefits for us, too: (1) We spend less time away from the barn, which is better for the cows, and (2) we spend less time operating equipment in the middle of the night, which is safer for us.
- Because they use larger equipment, custom operators can get the job done in a shorter period of time, which often results in higher quality and greater uniformity of harvested forages.
- We have very little capital invested in cropping machinery that only gets used a couple times a year. Instead, we invest in equipment and facility upgrades that are used daily. We also avoid the maintenance and repair expenses associated with cropping machinery.
In addition to cropping and harvesting, we hire custom operators to empty our manure lagoon each year. This spring, we also hired a crew to haul the bedding pack manure from our dry cow and heifer yards.
The crew arrived with a payloader and semi trucks. My husband, Glen, figures that they hauled as much manure in two days as we could have hauled in two weeks using our skidloader and manure spreader. We got a lot done in those two weeks that would otherwise have been delayed.
One of Glen's favorite sayings is, "Work smarter, not harder."
Custom hire definitely fits into our definition of working smarter. Plus, it allows us to deploy our precious assets in the best way possible as first-generation farmers.
The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.