Two weeks ago, I wrote about surviving our current economic climate and briefly offered five tips on doing just that. Over the next few articles, I want to bring those tips into greater focus to best help you navigate your way out of this chilly wilderness (yes, the wilderness analogy continues!).
In today’s article, let’s take a closer look at the first two tips:
1) With as little emotion as possible, assess your situation.
It’s tough to see the way out if you’re totally losing it. Whether you’re stressed, sad, or mad as hell, emotions make it difficult to raise your hand to your brow, shield that sun from your eyes, and gather the lay of the land. You want out? Great. First, calm down.
Now, see the landscape. Those cash rented acres are going to take some careful trodding. There’s risk there, and you’re best to move forward with some strategy. Those shared acres—they’re going to take some communication because you’re traversing them with a friend for sure, but one who certainly has his own ideas and limits. Your agreement is vital to your survival. And those acres that you own, well, there’s the solid ground. If your particular landscape is dominated by these, you, my friend, may have nothing holding you back.
Knowing your situation is akin to drawing a map: here is the swamp, here is the mountain, here is the plain. You need to know this first, before you ever take your first step out. Without it, who knows where you’re stepping? Further in? Down a hole? Up a tree? Learn the lay of the land, then…
2) Understand how relative yield affects profitability.
So you’ve got your swamp, your mountain, and your plain. Let’s just run right on through them, right? Wrong. You’re a farmer. You know what it’s like to be knee deep in mud, and you know that “running” through knee deep mud is pretty much just a waste of energy.
Don’t waste energy! You need it. Even when you’re really thrashing in the mud, you don’t get too far. So save it. And use it when you hit that plain and the running gets good.
The mud, friends, is a metaphor for your crappy acres, and energy one for your inputs. Don’t waste energy in the mud = don’t waste input on crappy acres.
When we think about yield, we tend to think about our mean yield and we hold all our acres to that standard. This is a disservice to our fields and our bottom line. It’s thinking that undermines the production from our best acres and causes waste on our worst. A better version of this splits our fields into zones by their yield relative to the mean and treats them according to that relative yield rather than the mean itself.
If that sounds confusing, it’s really not. Basically, you’ve got some spots in your field that just produce and produce like they’re freaking inspired; you’ve got some spots that perform to the average; and you’ve got some that just suck. Quit treating them all the same. Those spots that suck: treat them only to the level their suckiness allows. They only yield 160 bushel? Treat them as such. Accept them for what they are. Then take the input you save on them and put it into those heavenly acres. Because all that N and love that were wasted on the lousy acres—you’re good acres want it and they want to do something with it.
This doesn’t mean leave your lousy acres in the cold. It simply means that you treat them for what they are. They have profitability to offer, it’s just not as much profitability as your acres that perform to average and your acres that go above and beyond.
Conceiving of your land in terms of zones according to their relative profitability will cut waste and allow you to maximize yield by maximizing the impact of your input.
Our bearing is profitability. There are obstacles between us and it, but they are surmountable with some level-headedness, strategy, and resolve. We are in the game, friends, and with some tweaks and adjustments, it is yet ours to win.