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.
Purdue University crop, livestock and agricultural economics specialists shared their top three farmer resolutions for the year ahead. Those resolutions, and specialist comments about them, are:
Chris Hurt, extension agricultural economist
* 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."
* Resolve to make 2013 a learning year. "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."
* Resolve to review your family's succession plan and update your 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."
Bob Nielsen, extension corn specialist
* 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."
* Resolve to spend more time in the fields with the crops. "This will help you better identify the yield-influencing factors most important to your farming operation. Then work with your adviser(s) to develop strategies to begin managing those factors."
* Resolve 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."
Shaun Casteel, extension soybean specialist
* 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."
* 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."
* Resolve to harvest grain above 13% moisture. "We are losing out on a portion of our yield when we harvest below 13%. 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."
Keith Johnson, extension forage specialist
* Resolve 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."
* Resolve to scout fields. "Do this weekly to determine the well-being of the growing forages. Evaluate grazing pressure, presence of pests — weeds, insects and disease — and possible nutrient deficiency symptoms."
* Resolve to evaluate the possibility of grazing corn residues in the early fall. "This can reduce feed cost substantially for beef and sheep producers."
Ron Lemenager, extension beef specialist
* Resolve to take feed samples and have them analyzed for nutrient content. "Work with a nutritionist to formulate rations that will minimize cost and optimize performance."
* Resolve 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% for cows in moderate body conditioned with a dry, winter hair coat and 30% for thin cows or cows with a wet or summer hair coat."
* Resolve to create a business plan of where you want to go and how you plan to get there. "It can help not only when you go to the bank for a loan but also when the IRS does an audit."
Brian Richert, extension swine specialist
* Resolve to closely monitor your feeding program, since feed is 70% of your swine costs. "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."
* Resolve to collect and use records. "You should be culling the lowest-producing females, monitoring drug use, conducting timely euthanasia and evaluating all your costs across all phases of production."
* Resolve to re-evaluate vaccination and medication plans. "Meet with your herd veterinarian to ensure they are meeting your herd's health needs."
Other crop and livestock management tips are available at Purdue's Agricultural Producers information page, https://ag.purdue.edu/pages/producers-index.aspx