Compare Iowa State University's 2003 custom rates survey to last year's and you won't see much difference. Charges for some jobs are increasing slightly. On average, for example, big square baling will cost $7.60 a bale this year, up 25ยข from the '02 average rate. But most rates are holding steady.

The survey's biggest revelation is the growing prevalence of custom work. The number of respondents who hire customer work done increased from 14% in '02 to 21% this year, and the number who perform custom work increased from 19% to 22%. The Iowa State survey covers all types of farm work done for hire. Here are some of this year's forage-related rates:

Average Range
Hay mowing/acre $7.30 $5.00-$9.00
mowing-conditioning/acre 9.20 7.00-12.00
raking/acre 4.40 2.00-6.00
windrowing/acre 9.10 7.00-11.00
mowing CRP acres/acre 8.70 5.00-12.00
mowing fence rows, ditches/hr. 41.65 20.00-65.00
Hay baling, small square/bale 0.39 0.25-0.50
large square/bale 7.60 6.50-9.00
large round/bale 7.45 5.00-10.25
charge for plastic wrapping 1.40 0.50-2.25
Hay baling & storing, square/bale 0.56 0.50-0.60
Straw/corn stalk baling, large round 9.10 5.00-13.00
Wrapping round bales/bale, w. net 2.30 1.00-3.00
Silage chopping/acre 42.95 25.00-50.40
chopping/hr/row 30.75 16.67-33.33
chop, haul, fill upright silo/hr/row 37.50 28.33-50.00
chop, haul, fill trench silo/hr/row 31.10 25.00-33.75
silage bag filling (excluding bag) 44.50 42.00-50.00
Haylage chopping/hour, 7' hd. 67.10 50.00-85.00
chopping, hauling, filling silo/hr 76.15 70.00-81.00