A line of different types of tractors
Updated: September 14, 2021
By Ben Beale

Understanding Farm Equipment Needs

Every farm operation relies upon tools to help get the job done-some enterprises are able to remain competitive with a minimal investment in equipment, while others require substantial investment.

Equipment, along with land, is typically a major cost driver for farm operations.  It is, thus, important to critically evaluate the need for each piece of equipment before buying. Visiting similar farm operations to see equipment working, talking with you farm equipment sales representative about equipment options, attending trade-shows and farm demonstrations are all a good way to learn which equipment might be best suited to your farm.

A visit to your local Extension office or Soil Conservation District is also a good place to start to learn what others in the region are using and local sources for equipment.

Equipment and Facilities FAQs

What are the best sources for farm equipment?

Farm equipment is most often purchased from local dealers, farm auctions, directly from other farmers, and through internet listings.  A good source of information on equipment availability in Maryland is the Delmarva Farmer Newspaper Classified section, or the Lancaster Farming Newspaper Classified section.

Can I rent or lease equipment to get started?

Yes-many counties or regions offer farm equipment for rent on a daily or per acre basis. Commonly available equipment includes no-till drills and conservation planters. Maryland FarmLINK has developed a listing of equipment for rent.

What is a custom farm operator and how do I use them?

Many farm tasks can be completed by custom operators. In other words, hiring another firm to complete certain tasks, such as spreading lime, hauling goods, harvesting grain, to name a few. University of Maryland has developed a Custom Equipment Average Work Charges factsheet.

What kind of equipment do I need for my farm?  

Equipment needs vary tremendously between enterprises. A listing of different enterprises with an accompanying chart of commonly utilized equipment with prices is available in Appendix I.

Avoiding Top 5 Equipment Pitfalls

1) Buying equipment that the farm will never be able to pay for 

Modern farm equipment is expensive. New farmers often make the mistake of purchasing more equipment than they need for the size operation they have. For example, a modern grain operation will incur equipment of costs ¾ of a million dollars. This large cost typically requires that the investment be spread among many acres (1200-1500) to be economically feasible. Knowing your economy of scale and sizing the equipment to fit that scale is a critical first step. This is true whether you are farming 3 acres or 5000.

2) Buying equipment the farm doesn’t need

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It can be tempting to buy that shiny tractor at a farm auction when you don’t have a real need. Do your homework first, and remember that the bill still comes due whether you use the equipment or not.

3) Improperly sizing equipment for the job at hand

Be sure the power source, implement, and the task at hand are compatible with each other. In other words, don’t hook a 6 bottom plow to a 40 horsepower tractor to till a ¼ acre vegetable plot.

4) Buying all new equipment

Both new and used equipment has a fit, depending on farm size, your mechanical aptitude, and potential use. Used equipment can lower initial fixed costs, and allows a beginning farmer with a lower economy of scale to justify an equipment purchase. Used equipment does require the operator to have some mechanical aptitude though.

5) Buying equipment and never learning how to use it properly

Take time to read the operators manual, listen to others and request a set-up demo from the seller to learn how to properly operate a piece of equipment.


When developing a cost analysis for a new enterprise of farm, consider the true cost of the equipment. These costs are often referred to as the DIRTI-5: Depreciation, Interest, Repairs, Taxes and Insurance.

The initial price of a piece of equipment will provide you with an estimated impact to cash flow-when and how much the monthly payment will be for example.  However, a more accurate picture of the true cost of the equipment can be obtained by spreading the cost out over the useful life of equipment.

For example, a tractor may have an initial cost of $30,000. If the tractor has a useful life of 10 years and a resale value after 10 years of use of $10000, then the true depreciation cost would be $2000 per year. Add in interest, repairs, taxes, and insurance, and the true cost will more likely be $3000 to $4000 per year, plus operating expenses (fuel, oil, maintenance) of around $10 per operating hour.

Plasticulture and Drip Irrigation

University of Maryland Extension Educator, Ben Beale, shares information about plastic mulch and demonstrations in applying plastic mulch to raised soil beds.

Equipment and Facilities Links

Vegetable Equipment and Irrigation - Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center, University of Maryland Extension

Commercial Cut Flower Equipment: Big and Small - Commercial Ornamental Horticulture, University of Maryland Extension

Vineyards: Supplies & Equipment - David Myers, Extension Director, University of Maryland Extension

Equine Facilities and Pasture Considerations - Shannon Dill, Agriculture Educator, University of Maryland Extension

Video on “Vegetable Farmers and their Weed-Control Machines” - University of Vermont

Video on “Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques” - University of Vermont

Video on “Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices” - University of Vermont

Delmarva Farmer newspaper classified section

Lancaster Farming newspaper classified section 

Sample Cost Sheet for Grain Farm

Grain Farm Assumptions: The following equipment is based upon a 1500-2000 acre operation with limited storage. Equipment cost estimates are based on new or near new condition equipment. The sample operation follows a standard rotation of small grain (wheat/barley), full season soybeans, corn and double crop soybeans or sorghum.  Most field operations are completed no-till or reduced till, which minimizes the amount of tillage required. Some custom work is utilized for hauling grain to the elevator, fertilizer application and some field spraying.

  Description Average costs for new or near new condition
                                                                                         Field Equipment
Tractor Over 150HP Cab, 4wd, GPS $110,000.00
Tractor Under 150HP Cab, 4wd, GPS $75,000.00
Tractor, Utility, 50-75 Open Platform, 2wd, utility $35,000.00
Combine Mid-large capacity $250,000.00
Pick Up Truck ¾ ton $40,000.00
Disc 20 ft. used $18,000.00
Chisel Plow 12 ft. used $15,000.00
Cultivator, field 20 ft. used $12,000.00
Grain Drill 15 ft., no-till equipped $50,000.00
Planter (corn/bean) 8 row, no-till equipped $70,000.00
Combine Corn Head 6 row $42,000.00
Combine Grain Head 18-25 ft. platform $35,000.00
Sprayer-boom type 60-90 ft. boom. Pull Type $45,000.00
Mower 10 ft., Heavy Duty $5,000.00
Grain Wagon 600-800 bushel $12,000.00
Grain Truck Straight Truck, Single Axle $25,000.00
Pole Building Equipment Storage $25,000.00

Sample Cost Sheet for Hay Operation

Cash Hay: Assumptions are based on small square bales, utilizing a pull type stack wagon for up to 200 acres. For smaller operations, eliminate stack wagon and increase hay wagons. Smaller operations (1-75 acres) may also consider eliminating one tractor, drill and boom sprayer. Equipment cost estimates based on new or near new condition.

  Description Average new or near new condition
                                                                                               Field Equipment
Tractor 60-80HP 2 or 4wd, Diesel, Cab $38,000.00
Tractor 40-50HP 2 wd, diesel, no cab $30,000.00
Mower Conditioner Disc type, 10-12 ft. model $18,000.00
Rake Wheel type, 12-15 ft. model $8,000.00
Tedder 9-12 ft. $6,500.00
Baler; Small Square Mid-size, 540 PTO, Preservative Applicator $23,000.00
Hay Drill (used) No-till, 10 ft. $8,000.00
Stack Wagon Pull-type $35,000.00
Boom Sprayer, 3-500 gal. 45-60 ft. boom $10,000.00
Pick Up (used) 3/4 Ton $20,000.00
2 Hay Wagons   $10,000.00
2 Pole Buildings High clearance for stack wagon $40,000.00

Sample Cost Sheet for Vegetable Farm

Below is an example of typical equipment required and cost for a small 5-15 acre vegetable farm:

Equipment Description Average Used Cost Average New Cost
Tractor - general 55 hp, diesel $12,000 $30,000
Disc Harrow 9 foot- transport $1,800 $3,600
Field Cultivator Perfecta II-8 ft. $3,000 $4,000
Cultipacker 8 ft, non-transport $500 $1,200
Rotary Mower 5 ft. $500 $1,000
Tractor-Cultivator Farmall C, 30HP, 2 row
New model is 30 hp modern cultivating
$4,000 $22,000
Attachment Sweeps 1 set sweeps, 1 set finger discs $1,000 $1,200
Vegetable Transplanter Mechanical , 1 row, with water attachment $1,500 $2,000
2 row precision direct seeder Monosem, vacuum, addl. plates $4,000 $6,500
8 ft drill Conventional, 7 inch row spacing $2,000 $8,000
Raised Bed Mulch Layer 4 ft, drip attachment, 8-10 inch bed $2,000 $4,200
Water wheel transplanter 1 row, 3 pt hitch, water attachment $1,100 $1,600
Wagon 4-wheel, 18 ft $2,000 $2,600
Wagon 4-wheel, 18ft $2,000 $2,600
100 Harvestings lugs Plastic, perforated with handles $300 $500
Packing Line 16 inch, 4 unit packing line
with rotary packing table
$2,000 $3,000
Total   $39,700 $94,000