Sharing the load
In an age where a new combine can cost more than a nice house, many farmers are exploring options they would never have considered 20 or even 10 years ago. They are seriously considering leasing vs. owning, sharing equipment or having crops custom harvested rather than to continue on their own.
More and more operators are working together with neighbors to maximize their economies of scale by sharing labor and equipment.
At a glance
• Several different options are available for sharing combines.
• Two Lexington farmers have success co-leasing a combine.
• Another option is renting a neighbor’s combine by the hour.
Five years ago, Don Batie and Don Anthony met over coffee one winter day to discuss their options. Batie was completing a term on the Nebraska Farm Bureau board of directors, and Anthony had just been elected to the board of directors of the cooperative CHS. Both spent considerable time on the road working for their respective farm organizations, and labor in their operations was an issue.
So was size of their respective operations. Both were having a hard time making owning their own combines cash flow. So they put pencil to paper and realized if they co-leased a combine from the local Case IH dealer, shared their labor pool and shared their trucks, they could keep going even on days when one or the other had to attend to board duties.
“If we weren’t in this [arrangement], I wouldn’t be able to be on the CHS board,” notes Anthony, who serves a district that covers four states. “This also gives us enough acres to achieve the economy of size. If I were by myself, I’d have to have at least two more trucks, let alone grain cart drivers. I couldn’t justify the expense of my own combine.”
“Our partnership allows us to have three trained combine operators, so even if two of us have to be gone, we can still run a harvest crew,” Batie says.
They’ve worked out a rollover lease. “This is the only way we could do this, as it gives us the necessary hours, everything is always under warranty, and it provides us the latest technology and service on repairs,” says Anthony. “We have the same amount of operators when running; we are just running more days.”
The decision to share a combine has been a win-win. “After the first year of operating together, when we met to settle up on hours on our respective trucks, tractors and crew, we found that both of our harvest costs had gone down,” says Batie. “That just reinforced the decision to share a combine.”
Barb Batie, who is Don Batie’s wife, writes from Lexington.
This article published in the November, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.