November 8, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence
CYNTHIANA, Ky.

Sharing farm equipment is a simple idea that has its roots in the early days of mechanized farming when neighbors shared their labor and equipment to bring in each others’ harvests. In Harrison County, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is at the hub of a similar program that is making the life of a cattle producer more economically feasible.

“A lot of our farms are smaller farms, 130-, 140-acre farms,” said Gary Carter, Harrison County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. “You know, some of the pieces of equipment that we have are something these folks really couldn’t own themselves, but they can share in it and rent it and be able to utilize it.” 

For 15 years, the Harrison County Beef Cattle Association has been working with Cooperative Extension to provide local farmers equipment such as weed sprayers and livestock chutes and panels. Farmers reserve the equipment and pay a small rental fee for its use.

Tobacco settlement monies helped the program expand two years ago. Carter said that with money from Phase I, three no-till seeders were purchased to rent to beef producers with the intent of improving pastures.

“The no-till seeders will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 or $16,000,” he said. “And those are pieces of equipment that they use once a year, so it’s not feasible to own that piece of equipment to do a few acres of land. But they can rent it from us and the money goes back into the system.”

Rental fees are used to maintain the equipment and replace machines that have worn out. The office has just purchased additional scales and chutes. And it’s not just beef producers who benefit from the program. With the available sprayers and vegetable equipment, farmers with crops in the ground can take advantage of the savings on what could be a large personal capital investment.

The program adds quite a bit to the workload of Extension employees, Carter admitted. They keep all the records in the office and produce reports for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to justify all the expenditures. All funds go into a special account.

“We watch this real close,” he said. “I have a couple of secretaries who really monitor equipment coming in and going out. So it’s a total staff program. And farmers, too. Our local beef cattle association board makes decisions on buying additional equipment and replacing equipment, so there’s a lot of people involved in this.”

Farmers are taking advantage of the program. More than 50 people have rented the seeders this year “and it would have been more if we had more equipment available,” Carter said.

There are no restrictions placed on farmers. They don’t have to be a beef cattle association member to participate in the program. Carter said all they have to do is call the Extension office and sign up on a first come, first served basis.

For other counties that might be interested in starting a program like this, Carter had a few words of advice.

“The first thing I would tell them is they want to look themselves in the eye and decide if they want to be called on Saturday afternoon to be asked whether the seeder is set right or why the scales are not working correctly,” he said. 

He knows of other counties that have a system similar to Harrison County’s, except that they’ve put the equipment in the hands of a farmer, who takes care of the rental and the maintenance. He said that in Harrison County the program seemed to work best when there was a central location for everything. They’ve built storage facilities at the Extension office, which allows all the equipment to be stored inside in a single location.

Though it puts an extra burden on the staff, Carter said that’s all part of the job.
“Part of our job is the service aspect of it,” he said. “That’s kind of the reason why we’ve taken this effort.”

Contact: 

Gary Carter, 859-234-5510