Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Year End Decisions

We all want our businesses to be successful.  Part of that is managing expenses.  Now is the time of year when everyone is crunching the numbers determining how to create the best outcome for the year.  Investments in equipment for your business at the right time can allow for great tax benefits.  This becomes especially important in the business of farming.

Section 179 Tax Deduction

This is a tax incentive for small businesses to purchase equipment, or in other words, invest in your business.  For 2015, the deduction limit is $500,000.  This means you can write off your entire purchase the same year you purchase and put into service the equipment instead of depreciating it over several years a little at a time.

For example, you purchase a new skid steer and a Top-Spread Bale Spreader.  The cash savings on your purchases would be larger than the amount you pay for your own spreader.  This is incredible savings to take advantage of.

To check out what you might be able to save, here is a free simple calculator to use.

We can work with you to place your equipment purchases into the tax year that works best for you and your business.

When will you save?  2015 or 2016?  Give us a call today! 641.228.1101

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


When talking with our customers, the NUMBER 1 benefit they talk about is versatility.

Here is what they are talking about:

1.  You can attach Top-Spread to most any piece of equipment

  • Skid Steers
  • Telehandlers
  • End Loaders
  • Mini Wheel Loaders
So whichever one is at your building site or if something breaks down, you have other options.  Your local welding shop can make skid steer adapter plates, or we can make them for you at the shop.

You may want to purchase extra wiring harnesses so you don't have to move them around.

2.  Top-Spread is also compact

There are different models to fit your material and your alleyway width.

You are able to easily fit into your barns and around corners.

3.  Unique Dispersal System

Top-Spread has a unique dispersal system for more even coverage and versatility.  You can easily raise it up above your fences for bedding or lower it for ground and bunk feeding.

Your new machine is easy to use with many different applications.  Top-Spread is versatility.

Check out more Top-Spread Benefits by downloading your FREE copy of 

Have you checked out our NEW Website????
Loaded with information, pictures, and resources just for you!

Top-Notch Machine Website

Come chat with us on Social Media!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Crop Life-cycle

Diversified Farm Operations are the norm now.  Combining row crops and raising livestock.  We will save the benefits in doing this for another time.  We want to focus on one aspect.

The Crop Life-cycle

You carefully choose what you will plant; mixing corn and beans with plots of wheat or grasses to provide the needed nutrients for your livestock as well as bedding and the market for selling surplus crops.

You grow these crops and harvest for feed for your livestock or to sell the additional crops you produced.  You may have pasture that you rotate your livestock through during this time.  Even after combining corn, you can have your livestock graze and bale the fodder for bedding.

You spread the material you have stored for bedding, and the material you use to feed ends up mixed with this bedding as manure.  The mix of organic material and manure is able to be removed and spread out on the fields.  This is the base for the next crop to start the process over.

Choosing to use organic bedding completes this life-cycle and eliminates wasting crop material.

Need more reasons to choose organic bedding?

Download "Save Money with Cattle Bedding"

In here, you will find comparisons of different organic materials and tips to help you use less material.

This information is brought to you by Top-Notch Machine.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Skid Steer Recommendations

We really enjoy having the opportunity to visit with so many folks from different parts of the country.  A lot of folks are looking to upgrade their equipment in the upcoming months and want to know what to buy.  We are happy to give recommendations in different brands as to what works well with Top-Spread and what we know about experiences form our customers.  We always give two tiers of options; the middle level used models, or the new models that will work great.

Note: if buying new, we recommend choosing the high flow option.  It isn't that much to add to a new machine, but to rebuild in the future is quite expensive.  High Flow helps make the machine more efficient and you'll get better throw.

What We Look For:

20 or more gallons of hydraulic flow (high flow if possible)

2,500 lbs of operating capacity with weight options or 3,000 lbs if buying new

John Deere

New      333E
Used     325/326/328


New      S750/S850/S300
Used     S250/S650/873


New      SV300
Used     85XT/445


New      V400/V330
Used     5640/R260


New      330
Used     260

New Holland

New      L230
Used     L225


New      262D/272D
Used     289C


New      SVL90-2


New      TSV-90

Want to check out a certain skid steer's specs?  

Visit RitchieSpecs or give us a call.  

We'd be happy talk about your options or your current machine.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Easy Hook Up

It seems like we spend half our day going back and forth between hooking this piece of equipment to the tractor or running a pick-up to a different site.  Top-Spread seeks to end this cycle of having to start another tractor and change out another piece of equipment.

We have a built on skid steer plate for quick attaching.  Most folks use their skid loader on a regular basis making this much easier to use than a tractor with a PTO.  If you do wish to use an end loader or telehandler, we make adapter plates from your loader to our skid plate.  Not only does this make your Top-Spread versatile between your equipment, it also allows you to use other skid attachments on your telehandler or end loader.

Quick Coupled hydraulic lines make hooking up your Top-Spread a breeze.  We have standard flow tips normally, but also have high flow tips available if your machine has that option or if you upgrade your skid steer in the future.  Top-Spread operates entirely off your skid steer hydraulic power.  Two lines to connect and you're done.

Top-Spread's apron chain is run on an electric over hydraulic system.  Our latest improved system comes standard with a 14 pin plug.  You can hook this right up to your skid steer and run on your joy stick.  You don't have a 14 pin plug?  No problem!  You can add a wiring harness with this option for your skid steer.  This comes with a male plug, a momentary switch to place in your cab, and connectors to hook to your battery.  Does your skid steer have an 8 pin plug?  We have the solution for that too.  We carry adapters to meet your needs.  This is also a solution for other attachments that utilize a 14 pin plug.

Warning!  The exception to this rule is Bobcat.  They wire everything through their computer system to only utilize Bobcat attachments.  If you have a Bobcat, you will need one of our wiring harnesses to bypass the system.  Trying to use their plug could ruin the Bobcat computer system!

Skid steer plate, quick coupled hydraulics, and an electrical switch are all it takes to get your Top-Spread up and running for cold weather bedding.  Easy Hook Ups are just one of the great Features of Top-Spread.  Are you ready for a simple solution?  Call Steve at Top-Notch Machine today to discuss how Top-Spread can be your affordable tool for bedding and feeding with a skid steer.


Talking on the phone not your thing?  Send us an email!  We'd love to chat about your processing needs.

Check out this video to see how easy

it is to hook up your own Top-Spread!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Getting the Most Out of Your Bedding

No Matter what Type of Material you use for your livestock bedding, there are some tips that apply to all of them.  Are you setting yourself up for success?

1.  First and Foremost, you need to let your material dry out prior to baling.  This means following along behind the combine for stalks or cutting and baling the same day are not ideal.  Your plant product needs time and exposure to sun and air to dry out before preparing for storage.

If you bale your material too wet, you are putting wet material into your livestock area and it won't absorb waste.  Achieving a dry a barn is almost impossible with these conditions.  By starting out with dry material to bale, you are giving yourself a step up in the managing waste.  This will decrease the amount of bedding material you need as well as the frequency you need to clean out your pens.

2.  The next key is storage technique.  The most protection is to store your bales inside.  This will ensure your bales maintain the quality throughout the seasons.  Most people don't have this option so here some best practice tips.  If stacking your bales, the most ideal set up is the 3-2-1.  Place three bales in a row with two in the middle staggered and one on top, creating a pyramid.  Then cover your pyramid with a secured tarp. 

Stacking one bale on end and one bale on top with round side down collects all of the moisture in the bottom bale and is not recommended (even though it makes for great photos!) 

Bale wrappers are becoming a much more popular choice.  By enclosing your bales, you are keeping the effects of the environment out without the need of a building.  You can buy a used unit for about $25,000.

What we see most often is single layer storage.  Putting bales round side down right next to each other in rows.  They key here is to allow space between your rows.  By placing them right next to each other, the snow and rain water will collect between the bales making them wet and more chances for mold growth.

3.  So what do you do with those bales that have been sitting around for two seasons, were baled wet, and have a moldy layer around the outside?  Top-Spread is the solution.  Of course, you don't want to use all of these bales at once for bedding.  You want to work them in with fresh bedding a bale or two at a time.  And they need to be safe for use around your livestock.

Processing these bales through Top-Spread will be harder on the machine and will take longer to process, but it makes otherwise unusable bales possible.  Instead of the outside shell ending up in one pile, it is processed and dispersed in with the bedding.  Because it processes through and spreads out, it also shakes off a lot of the mold and dust that has settled in.  If you hit a wet wedge in the bale, you simply reverse your apron chain away from the rotors and begin to feed again slowly.  You don't have to pitch out any material like a pull behind type.

By baling dry, storing dry, and processing, you are setting yourself up for success in creating a dry environment for your livestock.

Interested in finding more ways to improve your bedding? 
Download this FREE ebook "Save Money with Cattle Bedding."


*Very rarely do we use photos that we didn't not take ourselves.  This is one of those times to show you the different options.  Credit goes to the folks that took these (even the stock photo.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

7 Ways to Market Your Stock

It use to take an ad in the Spokesman, breakfast at the local restaurant, maybe showing, and attending the auction.  That's what it took to advertise your livestock.  We are in a whole other ball game now.  See these 7 easy-to-start ways to promote your operation and generate more quality sales.


Everyone Googles.  Be Visible.  Creating an SEO friendly website is becoming very accessible with sites like WordPress and GoDaddy.  You don't have to write code, just drop in content, photos, and videos.  Be sure to include contact information for potential customers.  This is one of the most common things folks forget when building their website.  This is also a great way to collect all of your efforts in one location.



Connecting Producers and Consumers is becoming a high priority for our customers.  They want to know about real life on the farm and how the raising of livestock process works.  This is a great way to build a personal relationship with potential customers as well as other producers that have the potential of helping you or vice versa.  Blogs can be set up in a matter of minutes.  The site we use is Blogger.  Again, we like the plug and publish capability.  When creating a Blog, be sure to title it something relevant so people can find you.  A great way to do this is to think about words that describe you and describe what you do.  One of the great local examples of this is Cristen.  Her Blog is called Food & Swine.  You don't have to guess what she will be talking about!



This the typical way to advertise your stock.  Participate in shows and auctions around your region.  Have your livestock out in front of the public.  Another way to do this is on your farm.  Did you just put up a new building?  Have a show day with the building reps.  Be sure to prep your livestock for these types of events.  Does your community have an event you fit?  Perhaps you have a grilling event or talks connecting producers and consumers.  The options here are endless.  Be sure to promote any event you are a part of.


Social Media is becoming critical.  People like to have something to search and connect with online.  Be sure to match your social media presence, website, blog, print advertising, etc. so you are presenting one cohesive look and feel.  This increases your chances of potential customers seeing you and your livestock several times and will be first in their mind when it comes time to purchase.  The most important aspect of social media is engaging with others.  Respond when people engage with you and engage with other industry leaders to create a community.  The most common options are Facebook and Twitter.  There are also community forums related to most industries to be involved.

Be an Expert

You are an expert.  Nobody can raise livestock like you.  This doesn't mean you have to give away all of your secrets, but people want to hear what you have to say.  Volunteer to speak at events or judge shows and competitions.  Help with your local 4H or FFA.  Bring "city kids" out to the farm to help them learn about what it takes to raise livestock.


This is the next best thing to showing your stock in person.  Post videos with a YouTube account, send Snap chats to your friends, put your videos on your website and share them on social media.  This is all about sharing the real farming experience.  People are no longer just purchasing an animal.  They are buying into your system, breed, and you.  Show them what they are getting.


This is where you put yourself into your brand.  Create a recognizable logo for all of your promotions including tags, print, and online presence.  Find what makes you different.  Are you great at cooking?  Prepping livestock for shows?  Teaching your kids and other little ones?  Fixing equipment in a pinch?  Use these as methods for promoting your farm and products.

The most important thing is to put yourself out there.  No one will know you exist unless they can find you.  Connect, plug yourself into the community.

We'd love to hear about your farm stories and what events you have coming up!  Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook or Comment below.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Roadside Management

Iowa is always at the cutting edge of change:

  • One of the first states to pass laws in support of the civil rights movement
  • Leading the way for women's rights
  • Our pharmacy board was the first to classify marijuana as a schedule II drug
  • Creating a healthier state through Live Healthy Iowa and the Blue Zones Project
  • Creating crop, product, and solution advances at our universities
Just to name a few.

One of these projects is the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program

According to their website, "Iowa was one of the first states to establish IRVM programs at the city, county, and state levels."  They are leading the way in our shift from extensive mowing and herbicides to a more native approach.

They are working to find cost-effective, efficient, natural, and environment building solutions for a large percentage of our state's land.  The IRVM project is operated through University of Northern Iowa's Tall Prairegrass Center.  They provide resources and assistance to counties, states, and cities looking to build their program and restore native growth.  The Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund is a division of the DOT that works to help with funding, research, education, etc of the program.

This process usually involves research to find the right mix of native plants for your regions and then working to plant and grow these while preventing soil erosion into our water system.  This is usually accomplished with predrilling and seeding, followed by coverage and fertilization.  Some mowing and maintenance of noxious weeds still exists for safety and control.

Top-Spread helps in this program by providing a cost effective solution for road crews.  You are able to use a skid loader already on site and not bring another tractor and semi.  One person can easily cover 20 acres in 2 days by themselves in muddy conditions including retrieving bales from one location with a one speed skid loader.  It is becoming increasing difficult to find small squares and folks that are willing to handle them.  Utilizing large round or square bales with Top-Spread will save you time, labor, and money.

We are looking forward to attending the Iowa IRVM Conference this week in Coralville, Iowa.  We are excited to bring more knowledge for our customers and show folks how Top-Spread is assisting in returning Iowa's green space to native plantings.

Want to catch live updates from the conference?  Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Waiting until fall is too late!

Good News, Better Problems

This summer, we were expecting to build up inventory for the fall.  However, we were pleasantly surprised when we found a new group of people that Top-Spread benefits.  Top-Spread works great for erosion control on construction sites for buildings and roadways as well as around oil wells.  This means we don't have the opportunity to build as many extra models.  This is a great problem for us to encounter, we get to help more folks!

Order Now, Pick Delivery Date

We are now in the midst of our new Fall Preordering Program.  This will ensure you have your Top-Spread delivered this fall when you want it.  The process is simple.

1. Talk with Steve or Emily at Top-Notch Machine to find the model that best fits your needs.

2. Provide a small down payment and pick your delivery date.

3. In the fall, have your Top-Spread delivered to your operation and pay the remaining balance.

Simple, Right?  This way you have your Top-Spread when you want it for the heavy bedding season without having to pay for the whole machine up-front.

Filling Up Fast

Our September and October delivery dates are filling up fast.  If you would like to have your Top-Spread delivered during these months, orders need to be placed ASAP.  We still have quite a few openings for August, November, and December.  We are working to ensure our customers are completely satisfied.  This means providing an opportunity for a low up-front cost option to secure your bale spreader without having to sit out wait times in the fall.

UPDATE:  We are about 3 weeks out on production.

Currently, we are able to deliver in stock models and have short wait times on other orders up until the fall.

Be sure to connect with us on social media with any questions or give us a call! (641) 228-1101.

https://www.facebook.com/TopSpreadfromTopNotchMachine                     https://twitter.com/TopNotchMachine
Are you interested in learning about the benefits of Top-Spread bale spreader?  Download our free ebook to see if your chores can be made easier!


Monday, September 14, 2015

5 Tips for Healthy Calves

There are many ways to set yourself up for success in your cow/calf operation. 
Here are 5 Tips for raising healthy newborn calves.

1.  Spread New Bedding Between Calves

Replacing bedding between delivering new calves is essential.  Giving each new calf a dry bed is a key to prevent sickness.  This is easily measured by kneeling down in the bedding.  If you acquire wetness on your knees, the bedding is too wet and needs to be replaced.

2.  Use Top-Spread to Create a Fluffy Bed for Newborns

Spreading bedding by hand creates clumps of frozen and wet material.  Using a bale processor disperses the material to create a dry, warm environment.  You want to spread enough bedding that allows calves to snuggle in and cover their hooves when they are standing.  This protects them from the cooling temperatures of fall and freezing temperatures of winter.  Ventilation is extremely important when creating this environment.  Fans will decrease calf panting and stress in the heated environment.

3.  Use Equipment to Remove Bedding

Removing soiled bedding by hand leads to transferred bacteria and should be avoided.  It is important to remove soiled bedding between calves to prevent the transfer of bacteria.  Leaving soiled material in the pen increases the changes for infection and calf diarrhea.  It is important to start fresh with each calf in a dry, clean, and warm environment.

4.  Keep Mothers Clean

The obvious action is to clean the mother's teat before nursing to prevent transfer of any built up bacteria.  It is also important to clean the whole body of the mother if she will be in the pen with the calf, so as she will not soil the fresh bedding or affect the new calf when nuzzling.

5.  Separate Calves From Each Other

Grouping new calves together increases risk for spreading illness among your population.  You gather many young ones in a heated space with increased waste production and you create a breeding ground for germs.  Be sure to separate them and regularly maintain their living space whether that is a heated pen in your barn, or huts on a hillside.


Proper calf care starts you on the right path for producing quality livestock and saves you money avoiding sickness and calf loss.

Want more tips like these?  Download Top-Notch Machine's FREE ebook:

How to Save Money with Cattle Bedding

Do you have a calf bedding story?  We'd love to hear about it! 
Comment below or connect with us on Social Media.
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Best Value for Cow Bedding

Prices Drive many decisions in farming.

The world sees us as a commodity, meaning one ton of straw is the same as the next.  Farmers usually don't agree with this, working year-round to produce the best product available.  This doesn't change the fact that most farm inputs and outputs are market priced, including organic bedding material.

Organic bedding material price differs throughout the year just like any other commodity where the market determines the price at any given moment.  This is based on consumer demand and available supply.  During the winter months, these products are not grown and farmers need the material so prices are higher.  Prices are lower in the summer months when bales are easily found and there is not as much demand.

Average Price of the most commonly used material.

Wheat Straw: $112
Corn Stalks: $63
Oat Straw: $54

As you can see, price varies greatly between material types.  They range from over $100 to just over $50 per ton of material.  The largest discrepancy in price comes from transportation costs.  Wheat is primarily found out west and shipped to the Midwest, whereas cornstalks are found locally.

Wheat straw is a much softer material to use for calf pens, but is more expensive and doesn't absorb material as well.  Corn stalks are tougher, but they are much cheaper and more absorbent than wheat straw.

It basically comes down to your priorities.  If soft bedding for your calves is necessary, paying 40 more dollars per ton may be worth it.  If you need absorbency and an economical option, corn stalks are for you.

Both are easily processed in a Top-Spread bale spreader.  There are models for round or square bales to meet your needs.  Choose your bedding and your Top-Spread model to start making the best choices for your livestock.


Download your FREE copy of Save Money with Cattle Bedding
for more information about different types of bedding material.


Check out our website to view Top-Spread model options today.
Be sure to connect and chat with us on Social Media.  We like seeing your livestock pictures!

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Friday, September 4, 2015

3 Tips for Silage Packing

By now, most are starting to chop silage.  As we are looking to store this crop, there are a few important things to keep in mind when you are packing silage.

1.  Add Water to Silage

Silage that is too dry will decrease your capacity for storage as well as not ferment as properly.  Silage should average 30-35% dry matter or 65-70% moisture.  Silage that is too dry needs to have water added.  This should be done during the layering process to permeate through the silage and not create runoff.  As a general guideline, you should add four gallons of water per ton of silage for each percentage increase of desired moisture content.  This will eliminate fluffy air pockets in your silage storage for better processing.

2.  Compact

To establish as few air bubbles as possible, it is important to compact your silage in during the process.  High speed silo blowers are efficient, but add unnecessary air especially to the outer ring of material.  This creates poor fermentation.  Distributors should be utilized in these silos for better compaction and higher capacity levels.  If using a bunker or trench type system, constant compaction while filling is essential.  You should be mounding the silage so rain water will drain off.

3.  Air Tight Seal

To ferment properly, having an airtight environment is essential.  The fermentation process begins when the oxygen is depleted.  Fermentation lowers the pH level to the point where no organism can function.  Bacteria consume the carbohydrates from the silage to function and excrete lactic acid.  Once the pH level has diminished, the fermentation process is complete.  Covering silage after the last load is critical in starting this process.  Weighing down a plastic tarp over bunk or trench system with old tires is a common way to accomplish this.  On silos, ensuring door seals are in working condition will eliminate excess air.  When fermented silage is exposed to oxygen, mold can form.  This type of normal mold will not harm your livestock, but you will se consumption rate decrease.


This is a dangerous process for a livestock operation.  It is important to provide adequate ventilation in chutes and non-filled spaces.  Staying out of the silo for the first 10 days is recommended.  Closing off doors to your barn will protect exposure to your livestock.  Check out this article from National Ag Safety for tips and information about silage safety.

Do you have more tips for silage packing?  Comment below, or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Rental Agreements

Today marks the end of most rental agreements.  What comes next?  Renew at the same rate?  Increase?  Certainly not.  Decrease?  Maybe.  Wait until you see what the crop brings?  Probably.

Cash Lease

This is the most popular option for farm rental agreements.  In Iowa especially, tenants and landlords have a good connection and work together to determine the rate for the following year.  Having one fixed number helps both the tenant and landlord make plans for the following year.  This also elevates more calculations when you are harvesting.  It is important when negotiating new rental rates to understand your other production costs and where your breakeven prices sits.  There are many tools that are able to assist you in calculating your breakeven point.  The Iowa State Extension Office provides lots of great calculators you can access here.

Flex Lease

This the newest wave in agreements.  This essentially replaces the crop share program.  There are two methods commonly found.  The first is when rental rates are completely dependent on crop value or revenue.  This is usually a percentage.  In a decreasing economy, this helps the renter and hurts the landlord.  If yields and prices are good, this is an advantage to the landlord and doesn't hurt the renter any more.

The second method is establishing a base rental rate and a bonus if yields and prices are good.  This protects the landlord to cover land ownership costs, but the renter may lose out if prices fall dramatically.  This also results in profit sharing beyond the base rate at an agreed upon rate.  This way, both the renter and landlord have a vested interest in how well the crop does.  Usually the base chosen for this method is lower than the standard rate so the landlord shares risk.

Examples of both of these methods are from Iowa State Extension Office at this link.


Right now, folks with good looking crops are worrying about where it is going.  Folks with flooding or moisture containment problems are worrying about enough yields to breakeven.  As of this morning corn prices were $3.40, this is below most production costs for farmers.  It is important that both the renter and landlord calculate costs and revenues the same way.  Be sure to have this conversation ahead of time in your agreement so there are no surprises at harvest.

Waiting until harvest to renew leases is becoming a more popular choice, but risky.  You are creating an opportunity for another renter to enter negotiations in a very competitive environment.  You need to have your business goals, costs, and calculations in line when heading into 2016 rental agreements.  Agreement templates can be found on the Iowa State Extension website for your use.

Here's to a great #Harvest15, agreeable rental terms, and the ability to invest in your farm.

Do you have a farm rent story to share?  We'd love to hear it!  Comment below or find us on Twitter and Facebook.

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