Measure Twice, Cut Once

Measure Twice Cut Once from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

As I look back on 2016, there are some things I am proud of, some things I wish I would have done differently, and some things I wish I wouldn’t have done at all. I assume that most of you are in the same boat. SO as I look forward to what this next trip around the sun will bring us, I am reminded of two pieces of wisdom. They were both things I heard my Dad say often enough that I remember them. The first being “learn from others mistakes, you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” The second is “measure twice, cut once.” I think those are both a good philosophy to attack this next year with.

Through the years, we have all made mistakes. The wrong hybrid on the wrong soil. Too much water. Too little Nitrogen. But at the same time, we have stood back and watched those around us fail magnificently as well. I think we can all think of a time that someone we knew got in on a deal that was too good to pass up. When I think about poor decisions, one of the most frightening areas I can think of this happening is with your precision ag prescriptions.

For the sake of argument, let’s say it is a seed prescription. You’re paying somebody a couple of bucks per acre to write this seeding prescription, but your neighbor says that he has a guy that will do it for $0.25 per acre. So you ask some questions. Is he looking at yield maps, soil samples, EC data? Nope, using free imagery from the internet. And so you step back and think about it. Saving a $2 per acre on a planting prescription is real money. On 1,200 acres of corn that is $2,400.

But what else is the cost? Is a person or program that takes no account of your final yield, your minimum and maximum populations, your fertility and so on going to logically give us a better yield than if we do consider those factors? Not only would you say probably not, but as you look at the numbers, that savings of $2.00 per acre is about 0.6 bushel per acre. All of those factors we mentioned should probably make a difference of 5-10 bpa. So that savings of $2 will probably cost you $13,200. Then what makes this really scary is you are now creating bad data you will continue to make decisions on for years to come.

Those are the mistakes we need to identify around us and avoid. These decisions relate to the measure twice, cut once mentality. Anytime you hear about a new product, a new service, or a new person on the market that is going to do something better, cheaper and faster; I want you to remember the Rule of Good, Fast, and Cheap. You can only have 2. So this is where you start to measure. Measure those two things, their cost, and their benefits. Then do the same for your other options. If you have an advisor that you trust bring them into play, their mistakes, and experience from the past will prove to be a great resource to your operation. Then, measure all of your choices and cut once.

The only thing that might be worse than doing nothing is doing everything. Fear paralyzes, but indecision just makes us look like we are running around like a chicken with our heads cut off. When it comes to decisions on your operation like whom to trust and use for soil sampling, moisture probes, and for prescriptions for seed, fertilizer, and nitrogen, we need to put these two philosophies into practice. Measure both the benefits and the costs before you make a decision on what to cut. I am confident my team will prove to be the decision that you and others want to repeat, not avoid.