Have you ever wondered how much it costs to harvest your cotton crop each year using the equipment you currently own? Or, which mix of harvesting equipment would be the most economical for your farm?

In less than about five minutes, you could have most of the answers to your questions thanks to a new Web site developed by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The Web site, www.aeco.ttu.edu, assists cotton growers in determining the combination of harvesting equipment their individual operation needs to minimize harvesting costs. The service is free and completely confidential.

Evaluations

The Web site, which can be used for both cotton pickers and strippers, takes you step-by-step through the process of evaluating the economics of either the harvesting machinery you already own, or any harvesting configurations you may be considering for your farm.

“It's a simple way to provide you with some dollar numbers specific to your operation,” says Sukant Misra with Texas Tech University.

To begin your quest for an economic analysis tailored specifically to your farm, first go to http://www.aeco.ttu.edu. Then, find and click on the heading titled, “Cotton Economics Research Institute,” — it should be near the top left hand side of your computer screen. That will send you to another Web page where at the very bottom you should click on “resources,” then “harvesting cost calculator,” and then, “proceed.”

You are now ready to either determine the cost of your current harvesting configuration, or find the recommended equipment combination best suited for your operation.

To determine the harvesting cost for your cotton picker or stripper, the program requires you to input your cotton acreage, expected yield, and the number of harvesters, boll buggies, module builders and tractors you are currently using to harvest your cotton crop.

It also asks for the purchase price of each piece of equipment, the interest rate charged, the expected lifetime of the equipment, and its salvage value. Not to worry, though, if you're not sure of any of the requested numbers, the folks at Texas Tech have provided you with default values for each item. In addition, default values are provided for things like your daily fuel cost per machine, labor costs, machinery performance ratings, and maintenance costs.

Then, with a simple click of a button, the program estimates your harvesting cost, and the estimated time it will take you to harvest your cotton crop with the equipment you specified. The cost analysis figures are broken down by acre, by bale and by pound of lint.

Cost analysis

The equipment comparison option provides a cost analysis of different harvester options based on much of the same information. Depending on your cotton acreage, estimated yield and time available for harvest, the program will give you a list of picker or stripper options, their associated costs, a recommendation of what it considers the best equipment combination for your farming operation. The recommendation may not be the least expensive option, however, based on the available harvesting timeframe that you supplied.

For example, the program recommends that a 1,000-acre cotton farmer who considers 24 days or less the optimal time available for harvest purchase a six-row picker for efficiency, despite the fact that it is more expensive than a four-row picker.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com