Besides no-tilling 2,500 acres, David and Donald Sutherland custom plant 2,500 acres each year. As a result, the Leroy, Kan., father-and-son team several years ago needed a bigger no-till planter.

“We had 21,000 acres on our White 12-row planter and were expecting to spend $4,000 for yearly upkeep,” says David Sutherland. “The dealer said our old planter was worth $35,000 as a trade-in — half the price we’d paid 5 years earlier. Since we were expanding our planting work by another 1,000 acres, there was no way we could get everything planted on time with the old planter.”

Know What To Ask

When it comes to buying a new no-till planter, Sutherland says you need to ask a series of key questions. (For more details on how Nebraska no-tiller Ed Neesen went about buying a new planter, see "Match-Making Pays With No-Till.")

You need to know why you want to trade, how many acres you’ll be planting, the dealership you want to trade with, how many acres have been seeded with the current planter, yearly no-till planter maintenance costs, planter trade-in value, needed repairs, whether you’re going to expand and the importance of planting in a timely manner.

Other key questions include the brand and model you want, row width, number of rows, available farm labor, whether you’ll have enough acres to justify central fill and an affordable payment level.

When selecting a dealer, Sutherland wants to know whether they offer good product support, their negotiation strategy, trade-in allowance and options for planter setup.

“The dealer from whom we bought our new White 16/31 row no-till planter wanted $5,000 for setup,” he says. “They agreed to let us do the setup in February when we didn’t have much to do anyway so we saved those dollars.”

Sutherland’s dealer is 23 miles away but offers good equipment support and makes timely field calls even after hours or on weekends as needed. “We also found they will deal and a benefit was that we were trading for the same brand,” he says. “Keeping the brand the same is a big advantage.”

Know The Economics

The annual planter payment is $14,400 per year, which works out to $2.88 per acre with 5,000 acres. Since the Sutherlands didn’t have a big enough horsepower tractor to handle the new planter, they bought a Cat Challenger. The tractor payment is $18,000 per year or $3.60 per acre. Total machinery payments average $6.48 per acre.

“Custom planting represents $30,000 in income, so we have to come up with an extra $2,400 to make the payments,” he says.

One extra expense was a seed tender. “We didn’t have anything that would handle the bulk seed boxes, so we bought a belt conveyor that handles two boxes for $4,700,” says Sutherland. “Later, we found Garst had a bulk seed program that reimbursed us $4,800 by handling seed in boxes.”

Big Seed Savings

With 1,200 acres of soybeans, the Sutherlands are saving $6,200 on seed costs with 15-inch rows compared to drilling. “We definitely needed the central fill capacity to speed up planting and to no-till 250 to 300 acres per day,” says Sutherland.