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A helpful guide for Colorado farms and ranchers

According to one Colorado farm/ranch owner, an annual report by Colorado State University Extension yields numerous and diverse benefits. With data from a veriety of sources including ag landowners, producers, consultants, lenders, Extension agents and more, the survey compiles custom rates charged for multiple livestock and crop operations and lease agreements in Colorado.

The report’s authors are Jenny Beiermann, Norman Dalsted, Jeffrey E. Tranel, R. Brent Young and Jackie Seyler. All but Seyler are agricultural and business management economists with CSU Extension and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Seyler is a graduate of CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Janet Kreps discovered the CSU Extension report earlier this year. The 68-year-old widow with mobility issues had long sought concise data to help more efficiently manage her 350 irrigated Galeton, Colo., acres.

Ninety head of Angus/Gelbvieh cattle share the acreage with crops. Kreps intends to employ six contract laborers this season and wanted comparative wage rates.


“I’d spent a lot of time trying to find current rate. Since my husband’s death in 2018, I rely on someone else to do most of the farm work.”

“I’d spent a lot of time trying to find current rates,” Kreps said. “Since my husband’s death in 2018, I rely on someone else to do most of the farm work.”

Krep’s daughter had an employee with a grandmother in much the same situation. As she sought information on how to budget for her farm staff, she ran across the online CSU Extension report, which was then passed along to Kreps in January 2020.

After reviewing the 2019 data, she is confident about tackling her to-do list: hire workers at competitive rates, make multiple purchasing/marketing decisions, etc.

Kreps, who with her late-husband had owned their farm for 42 years, found the CSU Extension survey to be the best resource yet of her specific needs. She glowingly advised that anyone involved with an ag operation should greatly benefit from the information.

The survey results were reported by regions divided into northern, southern and western. Northern encompasses counties generally north of I-70 and east of the Rocky Mountains. Southern encompasses the area south of I-70 and includes the San Luis Valley. Western refers to counties west of the mountains.

Reported rates represent a plethora of variables including working conditions, machine/equipment sizes, field conditions (such as size, terrain, location) and other determining factors.

Also noted was, “A possible additional charge (not refected in this publication) associated with a custom operation is ‘mileage fee.’ A custom operator, veterinarian, or other provider may have a per mileage rate for transporting equipment between fields or traveling to/from a work site.”

One important caveat in the Custom Rates for Colorado Farms and Ranches is the 2019 report is that documented rates are not recommended rates. Rather they reflect a range reported by individuals surveyed.

Some reported rates might appear unusually high or low depending on the number of respondents and/or if the operation is not widely performed, the report stated. “This information should be used only as a guide.”

Under the heading “Labor,” for example, general laborers wages are listed at an hourly rate of $12-$18 in the northern region; $15-$20 in the southern; and $12-$25 for western region workers.

“Livestock Handling” lists a broad range of categories from sheep shearing, to fertility/pregnancy testing in bulls/cows, to equine farrier services. Livestock fence building (representing four wires) runs from a low cost of $5,000 per mile in the southern region to a high of $12,000 in the western region.

Tillage activities noted in the report show by-region per-acre charges for stalk shredding, various types of plowing for dryland/irrigated operations, mulching, cultivating, furrowing, harrowing, disking and more.

Planting, not including seeds and transplants, highlights seed cleaning and five types of plant-related activities.

More categories: Livestock and Land Rental Arrangements — grazing for sheep on all types of pasture; beef cows on native range, irrigated pasture, wheat pasture, corn/milo stalks; yearling cattle on all pasture types. These charges vary by the number of head; some are calculated per day, others per month.

The “Crops” section in the report is divided first into crop land cash rents and crop land share rents, with sub-headings of irrigated and non-irrigated (dryland) lands. Crops shown are corn/sorghum, alfalfa, small grains, sugar beets, grass hay, oilseed and millet.

Many particulars seem to be considered in CSU Extension’s finding. It’s noted, for example that 2019’s farming related rates did not significantly change from 2018’s, other than pasture rental rates had slightly declined. Because, the report explained, those changes “were most likely due to no or small changes in the prices of fuel, chemicals and other inputs.”

2020 CUSTOM RATES REPORT

If, then how will the COVID-19 pandemic and associated financial and societal modifications affect 2020’s reported rates? To a lesser or greater extent? Could such adaptations be short- or long-term adjustments? General laborers paid hourly to full-time salaried foremen and managers might be among categories influenced, thereby rendering 2019 data somewhat obsolete.

Regarless of future concerns, the report addressed above should be considered a basic, comprehensive tool for ag tool boxes.

The entire CSU Extension Custom Rates for Colorado Farms and Ranches in 2019 report can be accessed at http://www.wr.colostate.edu/ABM. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.




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