Preparing the farm for a New Year

Well, we’ve made it through yet another year. The Christmas presents have been opened, you’ve probably eaten more than you should have (I know I did), time has been spent with family and friends (a few of you may think some guests stayed too long), and those faithful cows were waiting for you each day.

A new year brings with it a number of challenges and opportunities with which your farm will be presented, including the weather, market prices, crop yields, and many more. Some of these things are within your control, while others are not.

Control

Focus on managing those things you can control. There are a number of things you can do to prepare for 2014. Let’s take a look at a few of them. Evaluate – where you’ve been, where you are today, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there.

Did crops yield like you had hoped? Did milk production increase, decrease, or stay the same compared to last year? Did you make a profit? Were you able to trim expenses? Were there improvement projects you planned? Were these completed? If not, why? Plan – not just for the day to day tasks that need completed, but think big picture.
Where do you want to be in five or ten years? Where do you want your farm to be in five or ten years? Is there a next generation that wants to take over ownership and management?

Is this practical? How will it occur? Do you have a Will? If not, now is the time to write one. If you have one, does it need updating? What plans are you making to transition ownership, management, or sale of your farm business?

Managing the farm

Visit your Ohio State University Extension office – to learn about all the ways OSU Extension can help you manage your business more effectively. Visit http://dairy.osu.edu to view many of the resources and educational materials developed by OSU Extension educators and specialists. If you are interested in evaluating financials, inquire about the FINPACK program. If your Educator is unfamiliar with the program he or she can put you in touch with someone who can assist you. At the website you will also find information about herd health, nutrition, housing, and management of dairy animals.

Crop production

Check out the C.O.R.N. newsletter (http://corn.osu.edu) for timely information about crop production. The newsletter is published weekly during the growing season and provides timely information about crop progress, weed and insect pressure, and serves as a site for overall crop production and management information.

Farm planning

The Ohio Ag Manager is another electronic newsletter produced by Ohio State University Extension educators and specialists and can be accessed at http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu. This monthly newsletter addresses a variety of farm management related topics, including, but not limited to: farm taxation, transition planning, marketing, farm policy, financial management, legal issues, and labor.

For those who are, or may be, involved in shale gas or gas pipeline discussions, visit http://shalegas.osu.edu for an extensive library of information. Materials related to technology, leasing, taxation, royalties, and much more can be found at this site. You will also find a listing of OSU Educators and specialists who can assist in answering your questions.

Take a break

Get away – even if it’s only for two or three days. Go do something to take your mind off the day to day worries of managing your farm. Time away allows for you to reenergize and return with a fresh perspective. You’ve worked hard, the mind and body deserve a break, don’t feel guilty about leaving – enjoy time off. These short breaks are also a great way to test the management ability of the next generation. Allowing them to be “on their own” for a short time will allow them the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities while you are off enjoying your time.

Conclusion

Begin the year by setting realistic goals and put them to paper. Take time throughout the year to monitor and measure your progress. If necessary, make corrective action. You may find it helpful to bring in a few outside advisors (veterinarian, nutritionist, Extension Educator, banker, etc.) to walk through the barns and discuss your strengths and weaknesses. In many cases, a new set of eyes will recognize things others don’t and many times will help reinforce your thinking…if different people tell you the same thing enough times you might begin to believe it.

About the Author

(Chris Zoller is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team.) More Stories by Chris Zoller

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