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Replacement nor rebuild make cents

Irrigation system is beginning to leak, but options don't pencil out with thin margins in ag.

As we’ve been irrigating this summer, both dad and I have noticed one of the irrigation systems is beginning to leak. The system is from the late seventies. For what I have in the system it has served me well. I purchased it around 1997 for about $5,000. We moved this four-span 660-foot system home span- by-span about 25 miles, going straight through the town of Plymouth.

Even though the drivelines and control box have been updated, this system is definitely in the worst condition of all the ones we own. The story is that it was rolled over the very first time around the field and then repaired. We have also replaced some gaskets. Now it appears the repairs are wearing out and replaced gaskets failing.

I have been checking into options to replace this system. Once I received my first round of quotes on new systems, I picked myself up off the floor and began looking for other options. (I mean, last I checked, the farm economy is down and the price of steel is down.) Structurally, the only issue is with the span pipe which carries water. The v-jacks and truss rods are in good condition, and as I stated, other wear components including the sprinklers have been replaced in recent years.

I then requested prices from two dealers to re-pipe the system. Basically that would be tearing it down and putting it back together with new span pipe, reusing all the other components. I knew the labor would be twice as much, but I am still in dismay that replacement pipe costs more than 75% of an entire new system. Are we seriously at the point of scrapping equipment that is 80% usable, just because the manufacturer wants to sell new equipment? In this day and age, that is environmentally irresponsible.

So, I guess I’m back at square one. I can’t justify spending $800 an acre to re-pipe the system or $1,100 an acre to replace. Maybe I’ll just get a bottle of spray paint to mark leaks and call the welding shop. I’m pretty sure a couple thousand dollars of welding will get me through another five years. 

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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