This year's record-high milk prices should bode well for the custom forage harvesting business.

“Thanks to rising milk prices, dairies are getting financially healthier and that'll be passed on to the custom harvesting industry,” says Darrell King, western division manager for Claas of America. “Some harvesters I know will be able to collect on past debts.”

Those climbing prices and the ongoing development of large dairies will create new opportunities for custom business in some states, points out King. “As new dairies are being developed, either there is a new custom forage harvester joining the business or an existing custom operator is adding personnel, machines and support equipment to service more entities.”

“More people will be getting into the custom business as the dairies keep getting bigger,” concurs Phil Wright, New Holland's marketing manager for self-propelled forage harvesters. “Many dairymen can't afford to do the harvesting themselves — they need to concentrate on making milk.”

The custom business is maturing, says King. “We're getting to the stage now where we're seeing a separation. The poor managers are getting out, but the good managers are growing and prospering. They're becoming much more sophisticated, with expertise in agronomy, economics, financing, human resources, etc.”

“Owners of these new, large dairies have multi-million dollar investments in their facilities and animals and they need professionals taking care of the harvesting.”