The author is a managing partner in Elite Ag LLC, Leesburg, Ga. He also is active in the family farm in Rutledge.

Mike Rankin

Summer seems to pass by faster and faster each year. For the most part, it’s because I work too much and can never seem to slow down. I think we all have a certain time of year that seems to go by at a faster rate and another that drags on and on. During the busy season, or the ones that fly by, it’s especially hard to take time to plan ahead. So, to make sure you don’t fall too far behind, you have to plan even further ahead during the “slower” months.

How does this relate to equipment?

Some aspects of the equipment business have returned to pre-COVID levels while others still remain with a backlog. Most smaller tractors — under 100 horsepower (hp) — are beginning to show up on time with regularity. Thus, this segment on the used equipment side will start to regain some strength in numbers and will eventually start to bring down the used equipment values due to a plentiful supply.

If you are looking for a used raking tractor this year, you can be patient and continue to monitor the market to find one that’s reasonably priced. This is something we haven’t been able to say for a few years.

The 100 to 200 hp tractor group is in better shape in terms of inventory level than it was a year ago, although not by much. Some of the lower horsepower units are becoming more plentiful, but for the most part, you can expect a lead time of eight or more months for this category. With the new equipment being slow to come in, the used equipment hasn’t seen much change in value or availability.

The high horsepower tractors — over 200 hp — are still in short supply. There aren’t nearly enough rolling off the assembly line to keep up with demand. A lot of manufacturers are allocating units to dealerships regardless of how many get ordered. Most all brands are 12 or more months out with their allocations, meaning if you need a high-horsepower unit, you must start this discussion with your dealer 15 months ahead of time. This includes lower-hour, used tractors as well, as dealers are placing the would-be trade-in units in their next home before they get to the dealership.

We have not typically had to plan this far in advance on both new and used units, and this creates hurdles that we didn’t experience in the past. Please be patient and have open conversations with your dealer about their particular situation and know that when the timeline gets changed, it usually has nothing to do with the dealership.

Unfortunately, the used market has not improved at all and will not make any drastic changes in the next 18 months. Higher interest rates have slowed some of the escalated used equipment values, but we are still seeing really high values on low-hour, high-hp tractors.

Hay equipment varies

For hay and forage equipment, some segments are better than others. For instance, you can find more round balers on the market now than you could at this time last year, although they have experienced a huge price jump — in some cases, 10% to 15%! This means that used balers may also take a corresponding value gain. Perhaps next year used prices will flatten due to an increasing supply of used balers on the market.

New small square balers are still somewhat in short supply, as are large square balers. Depending on the brand, you can find some scattered around, but you are better off planning a year in advance to be sure you have your new baler before the season starts.

The rake and tedder market is steady with large rakes, mergers, and tedders in high demand. The used market for all of these units is strong. Rakes, tedders, and mergers are probably holding their value better than anything else. Mowers, mower-conditioners, and windrowers are all dragging behind. Few dealers have normal stocking levels. The larger units are on allocation or on a retail basis, so don’t expect one to show up for you to look at or demo this year. You will most likely have to sign a purchase order to get a new swather this year, or maybe by next spring.

Like high-hp tractors and combines, forage harvesters are slow coming off the line. You need to get in line 12 or more months out to ensure you have both the chopper and headers in time for next season. Forage harvesters are always a challenge in the used market, but the lack of new units has helped us maintain some value in the trades. I believe you are going to have to run these units longer than you have in the past due to short supply and high cost of ownership. Trading every year or two is going to be costly.

This article appeared in the August/September 2023 issue of Hay & Forage Grower on page 26.

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