As I look out the window today, I’ll be honest. Planting is far from the first thing on my mind. And yet, I know how quickly it will be upon us. I have spent a fair amount of time in this space over the last year talking about all of the cool technology that can improve our planting performance. Hydraulic Downforce, Electric Drive, Speed Tubes, etc. all of these things are truly the pieces we need to consider to take our planter performance and yields to the next level. But much like the Offensive Line on a Football Team, there is an overlooked piece that is critical to success.
Your planter is a lot like a football team. The Downforce sets everything in motion much like a Quarterback. The Electric Drive keeps the motion going like a star Running Back. The SpeedTubes are a little misunderstood and are really only noticed on big plays, like the Wide Receivers. And then there are the seed meters, the Offensive Linemen of your planter. Their job is to make sure no matter what happens, everything is executed the way it was drawn up. And like the O line, they are only noticed by anybody when they screw up.
But, I think the comparison goes deeper than that. Seed meters get beat up all season by being in the dirt and grit. They are always moving, and parts get worn out. They require the offseason to get in shape for next year. Seed meters need performance testing to make sure their performance is still up to par. Our Precision Planting test stand checks the meter not only for its performance on the singulation of seed (one seed dropping when it should), but also the seed release (that the seed comes off when and where it should. If the meter isn’t performing the way it should be, we have options.
We can rebuild it. All of the parts of a seed meter are replaceable, and we can make the meter work as good as new again. But, like the Coach and the GM on the football team, sometimes you have to look at the player and decide if it is time to go with younger talent that has more potential. That’s where the eSet and vSet meters come into play. Our OEM meter may have done good back in the day. A meter that can deliver a seed to the trench with 97% accuracy is pretty good. But what if that new player can convert at 99% or oven 99.5%? With each 1% of seed spacing being 1.7 bushels per acre, that 2% difference is 3.5 bpa. At $3.50 corn, that’s $12.25 per acre. That means that once that row has planted 10-15 acres, it’s paid for itself and is making us money. 24 rows times 15 acres is 360 acres for an ROI. Then its money in your pocket.
So here is your take home for the day, anybody that services your meters should be focused on what is best for you. Selling you parts or meters you don’t need is wrong. I can stand here today and tell you that in 2014, 2015, and 2016, we replaced less than 15% of the meters we tested. And we repaired around 35%. So 50% of the time, we did no repairs or did nothing more than suggested you replace brushes and or seals. We want you to have a strong, high-performance planter as much as you do, but we also want to treat your meters and your money like it’s our own.
So like a football team, your planter will do no better than its weakest link. I promise this is probably the cheapest preventative maintenance you can do on your farm. December and January are the best time to make sure our meters are ready. Your FSA will get your meters from your farm to our testing site, and our technicians will make sure they are ready to go for 2017. Waiting for the last minute just means less time to get the rest of the team around your meters ready. It’s time to call the team in for winter conditioning.