Monday, 21 May 2012

Being Progressive

The one thing I notice when it comes to differences in farms these days is how progressive they are. It seems to me the ones that are more successful are the ones that are willing to try new things, or not do things the way their great, great grandpa did necessarily.

There are many ways to be progressive, the first, in my opinion, is actively seeking out information on your own. If you are on Twitter, or reading this for example, you probably are one of those people. The amount of information available online, the ability to connect to others in the industry and just the mass amounts of research out there is incredible, and hasn’t been greater than it is today. If individuals aren’t attempting to take advantage of this, they are being left behind.

The guys trying out new products are the ones moving towards bigger yields and bigger profits. This can begin from simply treating seed, adding on seed primers, attempting growth hormone regulators or using fungicides. There are new products out there every year claiming different things and while a some are full of it, others may be a fit on your farm. Some look at being progressive as being expensive, which it can be especially for those in areas that aren’t guaranteed the needed amount of rain every year. But all I am suggesting is buy 20 or 40 acres worth and compare it to an untreated check. You don’t have to do the whole farm, nor would I suggest doing the whole farm off the bat, but how are you ever going to make your farm more profitable if you don’t try new things? If you stick with what has gotten you average yields forever that’s all youll ever get. The guys out trying new things will be the ones fine tuning their cropping plans to make a higher profit and eventually end up expanding and buying the land others cant afford to buy or to farm anymore. Farming is tight for margins and squeezing every extra bushel out can make the different some years.  If you try new things and don’t get a 3:1 return on your investment then your money may be better spent elsewhere.

I do a lot of reading on unique farm practices from around the world, and when it comes to new machinery tweaks or concepts there is a lot of potential here. I look at Steve Larocque of Beyond Agronomy and am thoroughly impressed with the new things he is trying such as controlled traffic farming. Now, going as far as him may not be for everyone, you have to crawl before you can walk in other words. I was touring with a guy in my area the other day and simple little things that might not even increase yield, but increase productivity can be a big difference. One of the things he had done to his seeder allowed him, he said, to go at speeds of 7mph and achieve better seed beds/placement than at 5mph. Now I cant confirm if this is true, but its an example nonetheless. Another thing he showed was his home made seed treater that was cheaper than buying a manufactured one, quicker to use, more mobile and gave better coverage on the seeds. Again, Im just going off of what he told me, never seen either unit in action. But it is little things like these that can save time by getting seed in the ground quicker, save from paying your hired men for as many hours and allow for higher yield potential (referencing to Ross Mckenzie’s work on losing x amount of yield potential per day after a specific dates if seed isnt in the ground).

Starting off with little things can go a long way and show that new practices have potential to be effective. The most progressive farmers I know tend to be the ones actively growing in size and constantly setting the bar higher for yield in their given area. Note: Here is a link to Steve Larocque's Nuffield report on Controlled Traffic Farming.

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