Livestock Industry Drives Equipment Trends in Minnesota

April 18, 2016 08:00 PM
Livestock Industry Drives Equipment Trends in Minnesota

At 81 years young, Minnesota farmer Bernard Bussmann and his wife Tillie have seen it all during their nearly 60-year stint of custom cutting silage.  “I’ve done it since 1957, and I’m still doing it today,” he says.

The biggest change he's seen in all those years?

“Machinery,” says Bussmann. “Machinery is one of the biggest changes.”

From running a one-row chopper in the 1950s to a modern machine able to handle as many as 12 rows, equipment has made life on the farm a little easier for Bussman and his neighbors.

In this area, it's dairy that drives farming and equipment trends. “We chop everything that we have on our farm site,” says Ken Vogt, an area farmer.

Vogt's been at it for 41 years and knows that the ups and downs of the livestock business is simply a way of life.  “You have the good years, and you better save,” he says. “And you're going to have down years, and that’s what we’re in today.”

Last year may not have been a great year for prices, but production-wise, 2015 was a bumper year.

“We took four crops off everything,” says Jim Klaphake, who farms near Sauk Centre, Minn. “That's a little unheard of. Usually you can get three for sure, but we took four, and I heard guys that took five.”

It's those good years that encouraged farmers to spend. “We upgraded as much (equipment) as we could,” says Vogt. “We were conservative up to that point, and then we started upgrading and buying a lot of good used machinery. That is what has kept us going last couple of years when prices were down.”

Others are also looking for affordable upgrades. Klaphake, for example, is looking to upgrade to a larger mower conditioner. That solid interest is carrying machinery values in this area.

Minnesota Machinery Values

“In central Minnesota, there are very strong used equipment values here early in 2016,” says Greg "Machinery Pete" Peterson, host of Machinery Pete TV, who says there is lot of  demand for smaller, livestock-related farm machinery. 

"t's surprised me about how strong (interest has been for that equipment has) been at the end of 2015 and early 2016,” Peterson says. “I really expected a little bit more of a drop.”

He says it's all about supply and demand. “People assume there will always be a lot (of that equipment) on the dealer lot, and (that situation) is changing under our feet,” he says.

At Midwest Machinery in Sauk Centre, Minn., supply can be used to the buyer's advantage, especially if there's nothing to trade in.

“We're looking at watching our inventory, so if you have something where it is a straight out deal, that does definitely help with the negotiations,” says Steve Lenzmeier of Midwest Machinery.

Maintenance Matters

But not everyone is in the position to buy. Some producers want and need to get as much use out of their existing machines as they can.

“The equipment trends have been focused around keeping those machines running,” says Lenzmeier.

That takes time and care.  “The biggest thing is you have to service your equipment, and we do,” Vogt says. “We keep it serviced and bring it in and have seasonal work done on it, and that is needed.”

“I’ve definitely noticed we actually have an increase in the number of winter service inspections we've done on hay and forage equipment this year,” says Tom Overman of Midwest Machinery, who says producers feel they can't afford to have downtime due to "the cost of the forage that they're producing, as well as all the support equipment that goes along with it.”

In this area of Minnesota, good feed is their top priority. “When it's time to make hay, it's time to make hay,” says Klaphake.

With such a small window to get that crop harvested in Minnesota, downtime leads to lost money.

“If that crop gets harvested just a little bit out of that window of time, or it gets a little too dry or a little too mature, it throws those cows' milk production off by several pounds per day,” explains Ralph Eichers of Midwest Machinery. “It doesn't sound like much, but on a 500-cow dairy, with $14 milk, that translates into $100,000 per year.”

The later-model machines have advanced features to help with efficiency, reducing time these farmers spend out of the field.  “Last year we had a sensor issue--a minor problem--but I was able to fix it over the phone,” says Overman. “A customer called me, and we set up the recording, got the values from the sensor, saw what the customer was seeing and diagnosed the problem right over the phone.”

That solid interest in technology is partially driving equipment values here.

“I think it's a vibrant area for used equipment," Peterson says. “Used skid steers have been solid, the hay and forage has been solid," even with lower crop and milk prices.

Clearly farmers aren't letting those bearish markets dampen their mood. 

“You always look ahead and think it has to be better,” Vogt says. “And it will be better.”

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