For some jobs, farmers need help. Custom operators provide a wide range of services. The jobs vary from tillage and planting to spreading fertilizer and harvesting grain and hay. Big jobs might be building fence or moving dirt.

A University of Missouri Extension price guide lists nearly 150 services. The guide, which was updated this past winter, is available free online.

“2016 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri” (G302) lists prices for most services, says Ray Massey, MU Extension agricultural economist.

The prices come with no guarantee, Massey says. They were compiled from a mail survey across the state. Highs, lows and middle rates are listed.

Not just farmers but custom providers seek the prices.

“There’s no assurance the average prices cover the actual cost,” Massey says. “They’re a guide.”

The guide was last updated in 2012. “Machinery and labor costs have gone up,” Massey says. “However, fuel costs came down.”

Massey warned that some survey requests drew few responders. The guide lists the number reporting. If that number is low, it may be less reliable than those with many responses.

For example, the cost of moldboard plowing in heavy soil has only 10 responses. “Few probably need that service,” Massey says. The rates are $10 for low and $60 for high. The mid rate is $15.

For mid rates, half the responses fall above and half below.

In contrast, rates for combining beans drew 61 answers. The low was $22 per acre and the high was $40. Both middle and average rates were $30 per acre.

In Missouri, forage is big business. The guide gives many options for harvesting hay.

The mid rate to cut, rake and bale a medium round bale is $18.50. The low is $15 and the high is $25.

Farmers use those prices to compare their own cost of owning machinery and having the time to perform an operation, Massey says.

Before making an agreement, both parties must be clear on details. Is net wrapping bales included? That will be higher. Also, does that include both wrapping and plastic cost?

Not surprisingly, most services cost more than in 2012, Massey says.

Anyone can download the nine-page guide from MU Extension publications at

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