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Haying, baling custom rates updated

Use these rates as a guide to determine 2023 charges for mowing, raking and baling operations.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 3, 2023

2 Min Read
New Holland tractor and baler making bales of hay
BALE IT: If someone custom-bales hay for you, how much do they charge? See if it is in line with what participants in the Purdue custom rate survey say they charge or pay. Tom J. Bechman

If your haymaking days go back to the 1960s or 1970s, you likely got paid anywhere from $1 per hour to $5 per hour to get hot, dirty and sweaty. If the person hiring you hired someone else to bale, that person likely was paid around 25 cents per small square bale.

Go back to the late 1940s in south-central Indiana, and the going rate to custom bale and drop bales in the field was more like 3 cents per bale. But you also got a person riding on the back of the baler, making sure bales tied properly.

Custom rates for baling hay are somewhat higher today — OK, a lot higher. For those who still bale small rectangular bales, the rate in the 2023 Purdue custom rate survey is $1.28 per bale. The average rate for baling medium large round bales is $12.70 per bale, with large round bales coming in at $13.81 per bale. Wrapping large round bales in plastic cost another $3.40 per bale, on average, and moving them to the barn runs $4.67 per bale.

Starting point for custom rates

Michael Langemeier, Purdue Extension agricultural economist, maintains custom rate information for Indiana. It was just updated with a survey of 81 producers.

“We still suggest figuring all your expenses, direct and indirect, and making sure you are covering all ownership costs plus labor,” he says. “Use the custom rates survey as a starting point for arriving at a reasonable rate.”

Related:Find 2023 custom rates for applying fertilizer, spraying

The challenge with custom rates for haymaking operations is that a limited number of people respond to the voluntary survey, Langemeier says. The fewer number of responses, the more chances for variation and error in the data.

“Our data is especially thin for haymaking,” he adds. “You really need to figure all your ownership costs and build your own custom rates.”

Indiana custom rates for haying in 2023

The increases since the ’17 Purdue survey are more inconsistent for haying compared to planting and tilling. Langemeier suspects this is partially tied to the lower number or responses for haying operations.

For example, the cost per acre for mowing and conditioning hay is a few cents per acre less in ’23 compared to ’21, although it is 16% higher than in ’17. The rate for wrapping bales is 73% higher than the rate in ’21, but only 8% higher than the rate for the same task in ’17.

See the complete Purdue custom rate survey results for ’23 online.

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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