By Kindra Gordon


End of year marks a good time for reflection – and in my case, cleaning off a messy desk littered with items I’ve torn from magazines and newspapers or printed off the Internet because they struck a chord with me as “important.”

Before this assortment of items goes into the recycling bin, I reviewed them once more to see what merited passing on to you the reader. Here are some thoughts to carry with you into the New Year.

Hone in on inputs

Whether you are a cattle producer, crop producer or combination of both, Purdue ag economist Mike Boehlje offers some good advice for navigating the volatility and low prices in the marketplace.

Boehlje’s remarks were featured in a November 2018 Farm Futures article and essentially he says: it’s not how you sell your crops [or cattle], it’s what and how you buy the inputs that make the crops [or cattle].

He continues by explaining that in a commodity industry rife with uncertainty, you have more control over how you buy, and the price you pay for inputs or services. It sets the cost structure, which is critical in a commodity industry where you must be a low-cost producer for long-term success.

That said, Boehlje notes that in cases where you are not buying based on price alone, be cognizant of why you are paying more – is it relationship, service, product performance? If it is justifiable and contributes to a higher return, it may be worth paying more for the input, but if that extra value is not there, you must return to making the low-cost choice to help enhance profitability.


Technology 

advancing

I’ve been reading several articles lately about the exciting advancements in seed treatments and technology. Various protective coatings are allowing for better stand establishment in spite of cold, wet spring weather, and protect from disease pathogens and insects. 

Additionally, plant breeding is continuing to advance with gene editing [such as CRISPR] to the point of developing customized seeds for specific soil types and environmental conditions. Two companies to watch include Inari, which is being led by Julie Borlaug granddaughter of legendary plant breeder Norman Borlaug, and Indigo Ag, which is focused on developing microbial seed treatments designed to improve crop yield in spite of environmental stress. Also, a California company will be releasing a new microbial product in 2019 that is planted with corn and encourages microbes to fixate to the corn root and help the corn produce its own nitrogen. 

As this technology progresses, I anticipate there will be benefits for the livestock feeding sector and new advancements in livestock production and for rangelands will also be explored.


Avoid FOBO

Two articles on my desk both addressed dealing with information overload. I think we can all relate to that one. Too much data, news, and information to get through – much less utilize in making management decisions. One article used the acronym FOMO – fear of missing out, (a term coined by podcaster Patrick McGinnis) which is now being replaced with FOBO – fear of better options. The issue is that with the Internet so readily available for researching options, our society has fallen into the trap of researching every single option to ensure that you pick the best possible option. But, experts say this can lead to “analysis paralysis” because the more options you have, the tougher it is to make a decision.

Illinois farmer Maria Cox, who also blogs at Millennial Manager, also wrote a recent article titled “Paralyzed by Information Overload.” She cited the flurry of information targeted at farmers from trade wars, to market prices, to new equipment, seed dat,a and management recommendations and said, “I’m having trouble managing it all.”

To this, Cox noted she plans to step back and first think about what they need and want to accomplish in their business. She says, “I’m identifying specific goals for our land.” And then, from that, she hopes to be selective in the information she gathers toward achieving those goals. Sounds like good business advice as we move toward a new year.