Recently had the chance to sit in the 'training seat' of a combine and have some great conversation with a farmer finishing up his Iowa corn harvest. While we periodically watched the monitor jump above 290 bushels per acre, the main thing was getting finished - as always. And it made me think of a few things in the process, which I thought I would share.
1 - Happy with a big yield. Sure the giant corn crop they keep talking about incessantly is weighing on corn prices, but I'm thinking you're happier with a bin full of $3.50 corn than an empty bin when corn hits $8.
2 - Deployment important. Big harvests show you the 'pinch points' in your operation. It's not a call to go out and buy equipment (though it may be) but it is a chance to evaluate what was sitting and when. The more data you have on equipment use the better. If you're using equipment management tools like JDLink or AFS Connect, or any other of a myriad of data products, find out what was sitting idle and when. If it's your combine, it may be time to look at your logistics system.
3 - Putting data to work. You have all that data, hopefully while you were driving the combine, listening to music and checking email you considered how you're going to improve your data analysis this winter. That may mean sitting down with a trusted adviser to look at what you have and determine next steps for 2015. But the first step is executing a data analysis/review plan.
4 - Storing things right. I was at another operation recently and when we walked into the shop there stood a recent vintage - not new - combine that you wouldn't recognize as used because the farmer's last steps before parking it in the shed included a total clean out and even a wax job for the machine. Given where prices are this year (see #1) taking care of what you own may be more important than ever - including investing in a fall/winter maintenance plan with your dealer.
5 - Looking ahead with optimism. Agriculture takes dips - as anyone with a history in this business knows. 2015 will challenge many of you; and some analysts say 2016 will be a bigger challenge. Yet you enter this winter with more information at your fingertips than any farmer in the history of raising food. From better pricing information to improved weather forecasting, you have tools you can use to make your management better than ever. It's time to focus on what the market is telling you, make timely sales and move forward.
While 2015 looks to be a cost-price challenge, keeping a few things in mind can make a big difference. the long-term demand curve for corn and soybeans alone remains strong. I did say long-term - which could be a few years. Keeping a few things in mind can help.
Here's hoping you're finishing harvest and the tunes you'll be listening too won't be Christmas carols before you're done.