Written by Jennifer Glenney, Farmtario |

Custom work can benefit a farmer’s operation. But it’s important that the farmer knows what they want, and that they’re able to work with and trust the operators to complete the field work.

At the 2019 FarmSmart conference, held at the University of Guelph, a panel of three farmers discussed their thoughts on a successful road to custom operators completing your field work.

The panel consisted of Mark Luymes of Luymes Farms in Moorefield, Ontario, Al Hoftzyer with VanAgri Custom Services in Lucan, Ontario and Fiete Suhr of Port Elgin, a cash crop farmer.

Why it matters: There are many different ways farmers can divide up their field work amongst customer operators, whether that only be a percentage of the field work, all of the field work or none of the field work. But it’s important that there is a mutual respect between the contractor and the grower to ensure a successful custom operation relationship.

No matter what percentage of your farm you hire out to a contractor, it’s important to have common courtesy for one another in the planning and work environment you provide.

For Mark Luymes, whose family custom farms close to 10,000 acres in almost all aspects of field work with forage harvesting, square baling, tillage work, seeding and all other field operations through the growing season up to drying and transport of grains, it’s all about the expertise that custom operators bring to the table, or better yet — the farm.

With specialized high capacity equipment and the latest technology, the large custom operators can get field work done quick and effectively with a trusted partner.

“Any neighbours can help with the custom work, but working with a professional ag contractor — a consistent partner in your system — you are expanding and growing your operations together,” says Luymes.

Fiete Suhr, a farmer who contracts all of his 5,000 acres out to one custom operator, benefits with hiring out as no capital is needed up front, he has no worries in finding qualified employees and he’s able to calculate and know his cost per acre upfront.

Suhr says the key message is to know what you want and to work with the operators to build trust. “Then you know you don’t always have to be there when they are getting the field work completed because you are confident they are getting the job done right and in a timely manner.”

One of the biggest concerns with hiring custom operators is to know whether or not they will be there on time when the field is under ideal conditions.

Luymes says they are able to work around that with working and following the weather and soil types.

Hoftzyer says it’s important to call one to two weeks ahead of time, and once they are able to get there and get the job done it’s important for the farmer to have the area and work environment set up right. The operators want to show up ready to roll, they want to be able to set up and go and not be waiting on the customer, says Hoftzyer.

It’s vital the custom operators have all the information in regards to the proper equipment, says Hoftzyer who specializes in manure application. If they show up with too much or too little it can add time onto the process if they don’t have the right machinery to start and complete the job. As well, it’s important for the field and work area to be ready.

Luymes says working with one operator for the entire season can help to build that relationship between the client and contractor, consistent quality of work throughout the season and better customer service.

Custom operators allow farmers to be able to focus on other aspects of their operation, especially for livestock farmers whose time needs to be focused inside their barns.

Working with one operator for your operation allows the grower to build trust, have yearly reviews and feedback for both parties, know each others short and long term goals and have the ability to grow each of their operations together.

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