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The 2023 report covers a wide range of field machine operations.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

February 16, 2024

3 Min Read
Tractor planting crops
CUSTOM WORK: The 2023 Custom Work Costs report covers a wide number of basic field machine operations. BanksPhotos/Getty Images

Want to know what a fair price is for custom farm work? Michigan State University recently released its 2023 MSU Custom Work Costs report, which offers a base to determine a fair exchange value for both provider and recipient of custom work.

The report provides a summary of the estimated costs of these operations based on the University of Minnesota’s Machinery Economic Cost Estimates worksheet. The Michigan State University Extension version provides Michigan-based estimates of the costs of operating machinery in these different production tasks. It also divides the costs into some of their component parts.

The custom rate perimeters include:

  • skilled labor rate, $32.37 per hour

  • unskilled labor rate, $21.76 per hour

  • interest rate, 5.7%

  • fuel price, $4.08 per gallon

  • lubrication cost – 10% of fuel

Keep in mind that rates can be different in areas of Michigan depending upon several factors, says Corey Clark, who was part of a team at Michigan State University that pulled the numbers together. Other members included Steven Miller, Zachariah Rutledge and Florencia Colella.

Clark says factors can include field size and shape; ease of access; amount of nonfarm traffic to get to the field; machine size and road or bridge widths; trash in the field; weed history; trees or brush hindering work; depth and amount of field drainage tile; payment arrangements; and other factors.

Custom operators need to consider relevant factors that affect their costs and adjust their custom rate charge accordingly. In some cases, adjustments may be needed for changes in the price of fuel and differences in size or efficiency of the machine work done, Clark points out. It is common for small custom jobs to have a 20% to 30% higher cost of operation than a larger job, she adds.

Ohio will release its biannual custom rate report in May or June. Pennsylvania released its report before the new year. For more, visit farmprogress.com.

Here is just a sampling of Michigan’s custom rates, total cost per hour of use. For the full report, see the 2023 MSU Custom Work Ratespdf .

Tractors/combines/self-propelled forage harvesters (without heads)

75 HP, $30.79

200 HP MFWD, $120.76

360 HP 4WD, $15.84

375 HP Combine, $325.12

400 HP SP Forage Harvester Base Unit,  $202.98



Chisel Plow 57 Ft.; Tractor: 425 HP 4WD, $16.83

Chisel Plow, Front Disk 21.3 Ft. Fold; Tractor: 310 HP 4WD, $25.56

Field Cultivator 60 F; Tractor: 310 HP 4WD, $8.75

Tandem Disk 30 Ft. Fold; Tractor: 360 HP 4WD, $19.86

V-Ripper 25 Ft. O.C., 10 Ft.; Tractor: 160 HP MFWD, $22.38


Row Crop Planter 12 Row-30, 30 Ft.; Tractor: 105 HP MFWD, $21.98

Row Crop Planter 24 Row-30, 60 Ft.; Tractor: 310 HP 4WD, $24.53

Presswheel Drill 20 Ft.; Tractor: 130 HP MFWD, $19.91

No-Till Drill 15 Ft.; Tractor: 130 HP MFWD, $36.91

Air Seeder Drill w/Cart 52 Ft.; Tractor: 260 HP MFWD, $29.99

Crop maintenance

Row Cultivator 12 Row-30, 30 Ft.; Tractor: 160 HP MFWD, $10.80

Boom Sprayer, Self-Propelled 120 Ft., $9.67


Rotary Mower/Conditioner 12 Ft.; Tractor: 75 HP, $13.41

Round Baler 5x6, 20 Ft.; Tractor: 75 HP, $19.25

Large Rectangular Baler 3x3, 20 Ft.; Tractor: 130 HP MFWD, $18.17

Forage Harvester, Self-Prop Corn Head 8 Row, 20 Ft.; Tractor: 625 HP SP Forage Harvester Base Unit, $56.98

Combine Platform 25 Ft.; Tractor: 375 HP Combine, $52.40

Combine Corn Hd 12 Row-30, 30 Ft.; Tractor: 375 HP Combine, $42.74

Combine Chopping Corn Hd 12 Row-22, 22 Ft.; Tractor: 440 HP Combine, $69.61

Sugar Beet Harvester, Self-Propelled 15 Ft., $203.11

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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