Resolution tips for farmers to start the new year right
By Heather Meade
DARKE COUNTY — New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for those who are overweight, sedentary or struggling to break a bad habit. Farmers can resolve to avoid poor management practices or implement better production techniques in 2013.
Steve Leer, communications consultant/senior writer for Purdue University’s AgComm news and public affairs and publishing units, collected farmer resolutions from Purdue University crop, livestock and agricultural economics specialists.
According to Bob Nielsen, extension corn specialist, farmers should resolve to improve hybrid decision-making.
“Look for hybrids that not only have high yield potential but also a demonstrated ability to consistently achieve that potential across a wide range of growing conditions, because you cannot predict what 2013 will bring in terms of weather,” stated Nielsen.
Nielsen also said farmers should resolve to spend more time in the fields with the crops, as “this will help you better identify the yield influencing factors most important to your farming operation. Then work with your advisor(s) to develop strategies to begin managing those factors.”
The third resolution is to work toward improving the overall efficiency of your nitrogen management program.
“Take steps to reduce the risks of N loss, such as leaching, denitrification and volatilization,” Nielsen commented.
Shaun Casteel, extension soybean specialist, said farmers should resolve to read the variety tag.
“Seed size varies from year to year. The drought conditions — timing and duration — have impacted seed size — small and large — germination and vigor. Your planter settings and seeding rates need to be adjusted accordingly,” Casteel explained.
Farmers should resolve to take stand counts: “Plant populations of 100,000 to 120,000 plants per acre optimize return in investment. Early season stand counts provide the opportunity to verify your seeding rates and emergence potential. You will also be scouting the field for pressures of weeds and pests,” commented Casteel.
They should also resolve to harvest grain above 13 percent moisture.
“We are losing out on a portion of our yield when we harvest below 13 percent. Note that this might mean having to set the combine multiple times based on the toughness of the stem and ease of pod threshing. You will gain yield in water weight and reduce the losses due to dry grain and header loss,” Casteel stated.
According to Keith Johnson, extension forage specialist, it’s important to sample soils for nutrient levels.
“Follow through with the addition of limestone and fertilizer recommended by the test. The application of a blended fertilizer like 12–12-12 and calling this your fertilizer program is not a wise decision,” Johnson explained.
Farmers should also scout fields weekly to determine the well being of the growing forages. They should evaluate grazing pressure, presence of pests, including weeds, insects and disease, and possible nutrient deficiency symptoms, Johnson stated.
Farmers could resolve to evaluate the possibility of grazing corn residues in the early fall, which could reduce feed cost substantially for beef and sheep producers, said Johnson.
Ron Lemenager, extension beef specialist, suggested farmers resolve to take feed samples and have them analyzed for nutrient content by working with a nutritionist to formulate rations that will minimize cost and optimize performance. Another possible resolution is to adjust rations for cold stress, to minimize losses in weight and body condition.
“For each 10-degree drop in wind chill factor below 30 degrees, the maintenance energy requirements increase by 13 percent for cows in moderate body conditioned with a dry, winter hair coat and 30 percent for thin cows or cows with a wet or summer hair coat,” Lemenager said.
Farmers could also create a business plan of where they want to go and how they plan to get there, Lemenager said.
“It can help not only when you go to the bank for a loan, but also when the IRS does an audit,” he finished.
Hog farmers could resolve to closely monitor feeding programs, since feed is 70 percent of swine costs, said Brian Richert, extension swine specialist.
“This includes sticking to your feed budgets, being vigilant in your feeder adjustments, monitoring your feed particle size and analyzing your feed ingredients. Analyzing your feed ingredients is critical when you feed more byproducts with their increased variability, and with a bad growing season this year even our corn and soybean meal needs to be analyzed,” Richert commented.
Farmers could resolve to collect and use records. They should be culling the lowest-producing females, monitoring drug use, conducting timely euthanasia and evaluating all costs across all phases of production, said Richert.
Swine farmers could re-evaluate vaccination and medication plans by meeting with their herd veterinarian to ensure they are meeting the herd’s health needs, Richert commented.
According to Chris Hurt, extension agricultural economist, farmers could also resolve to never say, “It can’t happen to me.”
“The 2012 drought was a stark reminder that bad outcomes can come to our farms and businesses. Evaluate and use the tools to help reduce the terrible financial consequences that can come from bad outcomes. Start with a re-evaluation of crop insurance alternatives,” Hurt stated.
Another resolution farmers could make would be to designate 2013 as a learning year, he said.
“New technology is coming at us quickly. There will be a new farm bill to learn about. Tax laws will likely change. New farm products are emerging. Brand new opportunities will be presenting themselves. Be sure to commit time to increasing your knowledge and to the improvement of your decision-making skills,” Hurt remarked.
Hurt also said farmers should resolve to review their family’s succession plan and update their estate plan.
“Even if you have a great plan, remember the laws are changing. At the very least, learn about those changes and how they affect your plan. If you don’t have a plan, the new laws will give you a great reason to get started,” Hurt commented.
Other crop and livestock management tips are available at Purdue’s Agricultural Producers information page, ag.purdue.edu/pages/producers-index.aspx. The Ohio State University and Purdue University partner in extension to bring current agriculture research to the communities in our states.
For more detailed information, visit the Darke County OSU Extension website at www.darke.osu.edu, the OSU Extension Darke County Facebook page or contact Sam Custer, at 937–548-5215.
Heather Meade is a staff writer at The Daily Advocate in Greenville.