Now that the time has changed, my thought process has changed to planning for the winter and into next year. I went into a mild panic last weekend when I was feeding thinking I would need a lot more hay than I have. When I went into the house and wrote it down, I realized my mental calculations were off by a third.
This leads me to the point I want to focus on today: proper planning. Successful businesses have a plan and most have a mission.
Even if you have a small, part time enterprise, making it successful should be the focus and developing a mission statement is the cornerstone. It is easy to do by writing down your vision and values, then condensing them into a short mission statement.
This can be done by answering two questions. Where do you see yourself and the industry in 10 years (vision), and what are the most important things to you (values)?
When I did this for my own farm, I ended up with the following mission statement: To provide supplemental income by marketing quality livestock with a forage based operation with minimum effort and cost, while maintaining the family farm for the next generation.
If you can develop a mission statement, the rest will be easy. Set three to five objectives. This will develop an outline of how you want your operation to look like in the future.
They are general, untimed, challenging and observable. For example, some objectives I have for my farm are to reduce debt by generating additional income, improve utilization of my forages, improve genetics of my livestock and spend more time with my children. Notice how these relate to the mission.
Now you are ready for the plan that will lead to action: setting goals. Goals are set each year to provide a benchmark for measuring your success. They are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and timed.
As an example, this year, one of my goals was to put up 3,000 square bales of hay in 2009. I put up 3300. It was specific, measurable, attainable (assuming the weather and equipment would cooperate), rewarding (I was glad when I was done!) and timed.
This goes back to the first paragraph. If I would have recalled that goal I had set, I would not have needed to panic, but should have realized I was not doing my math right.
Another goal was to purchase a genetically improved bull in 2009, and did that. Another was to assist my boys with their 4-H and FFA projects. Hopefully all of these goals will help me realize the mission of the farm operation.
Since we are ending the year, it is time to see if we met all of our goals and if you did not set any in 2009, now is a good time to do so for 2010.
If you have not formalized a mission statement, give it a try and print it off and put it where you can see it every day, then as you decide what to do each day, ask yourself, “Is this going to help me fulfill my mission?”
When it comes to forages, some examples of goals for 2010 could be to divide a pasture field in two; plant five acres of leafhopper resistant alfalfa in April; buy goats in May to help control weeds and provide an additional source of income; graze two hay fields early in spring to reduce hay use or take soil samples of each of my hay fields in March.
Setting goals with forages and grazing is rewarding because at the end of the year, you can easily tell if you were successful. Dividing up pasture fields should allow you to carry more animals on the same acreage or graze longer into the fall, and you should see improvement in the quality of the forages growing in the paddocks.
As mentioned earlier, one of my objectives was to improve utilization of forages. I now graze later into the fall and start grazing two weeks earlier in the spring.
Over the years, I have reduced hay use by a third, and each year I set goals that will help me reach that objective.
Two goals I have set for 2010 is to divide another one of my paddocks and the other is to develop a new spring in a paddock without water.
When I decide what I need to do this weekend, I will prioritize what needs to be done by looking at my goals, then when I walk out the door I will ask is this is fulfilling my mission, unless of course, I am given the honeydew list (but that may maintain the family farm for the next generation)!
(Chris Penrose is an OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development in Morgan County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)