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6 ways to boost efficiency

Gil Gullickson 01/30/2012 @ 2:32pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Great athletes like pro basketball's LeBron James make their sport look easy. In reality, it's not easy. Natural talent and endless hours of practice make athletes like James a model of efficiency.

Great farmers are like that, as well. Naturally, they attract the interest of landlords and farm managers.

“I want someone who makes it look easy,” says Randy Hertz of Hertz Farm Management, Nevada, Iowa. “If you are well organized, things will go smoothly, even with catastrophic weather.”

Being a model of efficiency isn't easy, though. “You have to have good weed control, and the planting time has to be perfect. There are many decisions that have to be made to make for a productive and profitable operation,” says Hertz.

To survive, however, you have little choice. “The function of a competitive market is to drive an average producer to break-even levels,” says Danny Klinefelter, a Texas A&M Extension economist. “At breakeven, the middle of the pack will hang in, but the bottom will be forced to exit from the industry.”

Survivors may then say let the chips fall where they may. In reality, those in the middle then become the bottom and will fall by the wayside during the next shakeout if they don't move up, he says.

Here are six agronomic and management tips you can use to hone your farm's efficiency to survive and thrive.

1. Plan for the four d's

What would happen to your operation if one or more of these four D's occurred?

● Death

● Divorce

● Disability

● Departure from the farm

Or consider these other scenarios. What would happen if current creditors shut off your farm's financing? Could you survive if a key employee left? What if a key land contract fell through, diminishing your land base?

Planning now instead of in the heat of battle allows you to develop a rational plan to blunt the impact of such occurrences, notes Klinefelter.

2. Analyze your farm regularly

This one is easy to put off as a beginning- and end-of-the-year exercise. It's also natural to think of it as a chore.

Top farm managers whom Klinefelter has observed think differently. They think of it as an opportunity.

“They stay on top of their budgets over the whole year, monitoring what's going on,” says Klinefelter.

This way, problems can be detected and addressed. “Otherwise, you'll have blinders on and go in the same direction,” says Klinefelter.

3. Target time toward the top payoff

The top reason goals do not get accomplished is because many farmers spend too much time doing second things first,” says Klinefelter.

“Do things first that are the most important,” Klinefelter says. “If you don't have time to do the less important ones, delegate or outsource them. Don't spend your time doing $10-per-hour tasks. Put your time into where it has the highest payoff.”

4. Conduct autopsies

This isn't something out of the television show CSI. Autopsies are conducted on businesses, not on people. Still, the same principle applies.

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