Business Matters: Debrief and Document Results

08:15AM Nov 23, 2016
iowa farmland crop tour 2016
( AgWeb )

Recently, I was on a flight from Dallas to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Two minutes into takeoff, the aircraft suddenly powered back. I felt the seat belt clenched to my body as the plane was leveling off and dramatically slowing down. 

Looking through a window across the aircraft, I could see we were cruising at a fairly low altitude. Finally, the pilot came on the loudspeaker: “This is your captain speaking. We currently have an issue with the aircraft. When we were on takeoff, some of the adjacent aircraft on the ground noticed we had fuel pouring out of the right wing. We have assessed the situation and have discovered the fuel cap was not put back on the aircraft after refueling.” 

We flew around for an hour to burn off excess fuel weight to make a safe landing. Such a simple thing as forgetting to put on the fuel cap put a lot of lives at risk and cost the airline thousands of dollars.

Sweat The Small Stuff. Consider some of the simple tasks within our farming operations that we can better analyze if we document and debrief with our team on the “right” information in order to prevent problems and capitalize on profit opportunities. The decisions we make might not have life-and-death consequences, but they dramatically affect the life of your farm business. 

For example, during and after harvest I constantly hear farmers refer to “yield advantage” from one management practice or product versus another. Although this is critical information, it’s really only a part of the equation for making good decisions. Profit per acre should be our primary focus. This sounds like a logical statement, but how often do you take the results of yield data and truly dial it down to your operation’s financial numbers? 

During the course of harvest, there is such a vast amount of information coming in that one needs to prioritize which information is most important to analyze. Some of the priorities might include hybrid and variety selection, spring management decisions, planting date, harvest timing, equipment settings, grain quality, soil conditions, variable fertilizer rates, fungicide and logistics. 

Ongoing To-Do List. As you’re rolling across the fields during harvest, you’re thinking of all the things that could be changed or improved in your operation. Most of the ideas would be simple to implement, but unfortunately many are forgotten. 

We get back in the field after a complete season has gone by and think to ourselves, “Oh that’s right, I was going to fix that problem last year but never did.” Make a list of improvements, observations and data results from the year and prioritize them.

We’ve seen numerous cases involving damaged grain due to corn ear rots and some other fungal diseases this year. We’ve also seen some cases with soft textured grain being damaged during harvest and handling. These situations can create significant docks. Let’s assume your top-yielding hybrid produced 225 bu. an acre, but your foreign material or damage docks are costing 15¢ per bushel—a cost of $34 an acre. 

Another way to look at it is even though this might have been your top-yielding hybrid, it would need to be almost 10 bu. per acre better than everything else in profitability because of the grain dock. 

Simple Changes, Big Results. Some of this level of analysis takes a little experience, some math calculations and critical thinking. But, there are many quick and simple adjustments within your farming operation that can help improve the bottom line. If just a simple setting adjustment on the combine header could decrease yield loss by 2 bu. per acre, you can instantly have a profit improvement of $7 to $8 an acre. 

Remembering those small changes can help dramatically improve bottom-line profits. Sometimes it’s the simple stuff. Don’t forget the fuel cap!