An annual survey of farmers, custom operators and managers in Iowa shows prices could face increases for custom services this year.

The survey, conducted by Iowa State University, includes percentage changes by category of custom services in 2023 compared to 2022. The data show the largest single percentage change for custom services is 23.8% for miscellaneous services, followed by a 20.2% increase for harvesting and hauling. Respondents said the average cost of preharvest operations would increase 15.1%, followed by a 14.3% increase for harvesting forage.

Bin and machinery rental is expected to increase 13.7%, while complete custom farming services are expected to increase 10.6%. Labor costs are expected to increase about 9.8%.

The survey also provides estimated ranges for various conservation tillages. For example, custom vertical tillage is expected to range between $12 and $35 per acre, based on 36 responses, with an average charge of $22.05 per acre.

2023 Iowa Custom Strip-Till Rates

Custom operations are frequently used in strip-till farming, given the expense of purchasing or custom building equipment for the practice. The range given, based on 14 responses to the 2023 survey, is $15 to $35 per acre, with an average of $24.35 per acre. Extra charges per acre for anhydrous fertilizer and no materials ranged from $7.50-26 with tool bar, based on 45 responses, and $8-14.34 without tool bar, based on 19 responses. The average charge came to $14.70 with tool bar and $12.10 without tool bar. 

In 2022, the average custom strip-till cost per acre was $21.65.

Rates for Planting, Fertilizer Application

The 2023 survey also included average rates for a variety of other custom services, including chopping cornstalks, planting, fertilizer application, manure spreading and tiling. 

Cornstalk chopping averages $14.80 per acre, with individual respondents charging or paying anywhere from $10-20 per acre. The average cost for planting with fertilizer and insecticide attachments is $27.10 per acre. The price drops to an average of $24.70 per acre without attachments and increases to an average of $27.90 per acre for planting with a high-speed planter.

Dry bulk fertilizer application costs an average of $7.20 per acre. Liquid spraying costs $7.75 per acre on average, while sidedressing is $12.90 per acre. Injecting anhydrous with a toolbar averages $14.70 per acre, while injecting without a toolbar costs $12.10 per acre on average. Costs for spreading lime range from $5.50-11 per acre, with the average charge being $7.50 per acre. All prices are without materials included.

Injection of 1,000 gallons of liquid manure averages $16.65 per acre, while applying 1,000 gallons of liquid manure with a drag line costs $13.50 per acre on average. Loading solid manure ranges from $100-125 per hour, averaging $115. 

For tiling work (excluding materials), tiling with a tile plow costs $1.05 per foot. 

Survey Demographics

About 94 people who received an email or mailed survey responded, and the survey includes 2,621 rates furnished by farmers, custom operators and farm managers.

Among respondents, 20% perform custom work, 14% hire custom outfits, 59% do both, and 6% indicated doing neither.

Researchers caution that the survey results, which include ranges and other information for specific services, should only be used as a guide, and point out that actual custom rates can vary widely within the state of Iowa, let alone among various states.

Click here to see the 2023 survey