Walking across the barren fields of Oklahoma, there’s no shortage of wind, but rain is in sparse supply this year.
“The biggest challenge is probably the unpredictability of the weather,” said Jarold Callahan, of Express Ranches in Yukon, Oklahoma.
He’s accustomed to ranching without an abundance of water, but the winter of 2018 has quickly become one of the driest on record. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than 58 percent of the state is consumed by dryness, and the Oklahoma Panhandle is facing the most severe conditions.
“We are probably right on the edge of the line here in Kingfisher,” said Shane Clifton, store manager at P&K Equipment in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. “We get to the eastern side of the state, and they've not been affected at all like we have.”
Clifton says the lack of rain was impacting equipment purchasing decisions in his area through winter.
“We had a good rain there about two weeks back and that you could just tell the attitudes changed overnight,” he said.
The rain of which Clifton speaks came in mid-March, and rain has been sparse since. That’s creating tough growing conditions in Callahan’s backyard, and feed is becoming a challenge. He said feed availability is getting critical and it's only spring.
“The hay is getting very, very short,” said Callahan. “We're in a very dry area. We’re on the eastern side of the extremely dry area in Oklahoma but there's getting a lot of concern while we're going to do for forage. A lot of people count on wheat as a hay crop and that's going to be depleted as well.”
Clifton says wheat is the dealership's biggest crop in Kingfisher, but cattle is considered a close second.
“We’ve seen an uptick in interest of both new and used balers, which we've always got a lot of what I call very ‘clean balers’ in this country,” said Clifton. “That's what seems to be the people are looking for.”
Clifton says what he considers “clean” are good quality balers with a low bale count. That interest he says is coming from both in-store and online. It’s that online interest also showing up on MachineryPete.com.
“Search traffic is up 20 percent in the last 60 days on round balers,” said Greg Peterson, host of Machinery Pete TV.
Callahan says a solid, dependable baler is a need for their operation.
“The windrows don't have to be quite as precise,” said Callahan. “The net wraps were great—it’s an invention that really helped us.”
While slightly used balers are posting strong interest, the overall used equipment market is starting to send mixed signals.
“The equipment market as a whole is a really tough market to generalize right now,” said Peterson. “Small equipment has been doing the best generally, if you’re talking mid to small size tractors.”
It's the value of smaller tractors that continues to stand on solid footing for P&K Equipment.
“I would say we sell a lot of 200 horsepower tractors and down,” said Clifton. “We'll sell lots of lawn and garden machinery and then we’ll a lot of used combines and 4WD tractors.”
Clifton says interest in older equipment is gaining strength.
“Anything that's got a little age to it—we've noticed a big uptick in that,” said Clifton. “That's really been a high seller for us and a good mover.
A recent heat map complied from data from MachineryPete.com shows the highest price of John Deere S670 series combines sold the past six months reside farther north in the Plains.
“Combines, we've seen some amazing strength on one-model or older,” said Clifton.
Clifton says despite dry conditions across Oklahoma, interest in used equipment is starting to make a comeback in parts of the state.
“It started to turn the corner a little, which is which is a good sign,” he said.
It’s a sign dealers hope will turn into a sustainable trend, even as dryness persists on the Plains.