Farming in the current operating environment

Farming in the current operating environment

In the current operating environment there are many challenges and uncertainties involved such as; weather, food fibre and crop production, the global economic situation and most of all the huge amount of legislative change being forced upon the rural sectors.

Then, there are the challenges to be faced on the farm with staffing & supervision and the general decision making around the ongoing operations of the farm itself. The number of these decisions that you have to make and in some cases (for example whether to plant feed crops and when, or rely on hay & silage) the possible impacts of many of them can present challenges, themselves.

Sometimes the number of decisions you need to make can almost seem overwhelming and even lead to the inability to make any decision at all or the feeling of being unable to evaluate your choices adequately.

So what can you do when you are facing these challenges?

There are several thought processes that successful farmers tend to display when making decisions and facing uncertainties in their operations.

The most successful farmers are those that are, driven by, cost modelling; adaptability to change; forward looking and thinking and being prepared to learn new things.

Cost Modelling: The farmers who run their operations by the numbers tend to have more clarity and peace of mind when they make decisions in uncertain situations. They use data, projections, metrics and other financial information and that often helps take some of the emotion out of the decision-making process. They use that data to show that their decisions are based on secure analysis rather than being just something that is no more than a guess/gamble.

Adaptable to Change: When it comes to decisions surrounded by uncertainty flexibility and adaptability is key to farmers being more responsive to changing conditions, scenarios or situations both on farm and outside of it that impact their operation. The more quickly a farmer and the farming operation can adapt to changing conditions, scenarios or situations, the better advantage they often have.

Looking Forward: Running the farming operation with a vision as to what’s coming up next and working out how you will deal with any anticipated changes is extremely  important, particularly in the current situation where farming is facing regulatory changes almost weekly. Those farmers who constantly think about future changes and the implications of those changes on their farms, are usually able to stay one step ahead in their thinking and that can help keep their farms competitive.

Learning New Things: Farmers who are always open to learning something new also typically have a competitive advantage over others. They seek out new ideas and new ways of doing things with an eye to determining whether those ideas are a good fit for their operation. This keeps the operation moving forward and evolving to meet new challenges and scenarios in today’s agricultural operating environment.

There’s no shortage of decisions that farmers must make for their operation, from making real-time decisions about grazing & cropping to major purchases of machinery or livestock. It can seem like there’s always another big decision around the corner.

The truth is that farms are always operating within a rapidly changing environment and there’s always going to be some elements of uncertainty. With markets and crop conditions and global political situations constantly changing, it can feel overwhelming to farmers who want to make good decisions for their operations.

So, what can a farmer do? The best approach is probably to consider a combination of different factors which together may affect the best decisions for your own operation. The goal is to reduce and lower uncertainty as much as possible, in as many areas as possible, to help with big decisions.

The four key thought processes mentioned earlier have a number of factors that should be considered when you are making important decisions for your farming operation.

Cost Modelling: The key thing to help your operation reach financial success is to know and understand your operation’s financials inside and out, and update them regularly as the numbers shift and change. Every decision that you make needs to run through those numbers to see how it will impact the operation.

Adaptable to Change: Staying on top of information around what’s happening, in the factors that impact agriculture and move the agricultural markets is also key. It’s true that there’s so much information out there today and sometimes trying to gather it and make sense of what it all means for your operation can be a big task. You need to analyse all the factors that impact agriculture to be able to adapt to changes in the markets and to do that you need to gather the information that is relevant to your farming operations.

Looking Forward: You need to ensure that you analyse the right data when looking forward and making decisions for the future of your farming operation based on that data. The right data or information for the situation will depend greatly on the type of decision that you are making. You need to take a critical look at the numbers, especially for high cost decisions.

Learning New Things. While it’s a good thing to be open to learning something new and gaining a competitive advantage over others when those ideas are a good fit for your operation, it is not a good idea to act purely from intuition. It can be helpful though, to stop and ask yourself what your gut feeling is in regard to these ideas. Checking decisions against your natural gut feelings can be a good way to check against your business and personal values, to make sure the decision is consistent with them.

It can also be helpful when it comes to making decisions in these uncertain times, to work with a farm advisor who can help analyse the details, act as a sounding board and provide a level of impartial advice.

Farming under the possible effect of the Covid Pandemic

As previously stated, in the current operating environment there are many challenges and uncertainties with one of the worst being the effects from a Covid infection in you, any of your family, or your staff.

The first issue is the need & importance of farmers having a continuity plan that deals with the situation where a farmer/worker gets infected with the Covid virus.

What will happen first up?

You will be required to self-isolate at the very least. The infected person/persons are most likely to be taken into MIQ (Managed Isolation Quarantine) as soon as they are identified as being infected.

But apart from the personal isolation issues where does that leave the farming operation in relation to supplying/selling production from the farm.

Where you have a farmer/worker who has contracted the Covid Virus, they should not be allowed anywhere near livestock under the requirements of the International Phytosanitary regulations rather than just health issues.

If there was any suspicion that they were handling stock, then it is most likely that milk or livestock would not be picked up and taken off farm. So it is extremely important that if you or your staff are unwell then your first action should be to ensure that you or they as the case may be, stay at home & let relief workers take over.

It may be possible for farmers to isolate at home but this would be at the discretion of the local Medical Officer of Health. Part of this would depend on the facilities at your home on the farm, with this possibility probably only being likely where you have been fully vaccinated.

Currently there are no specific rules in place related to farming and Covid infections but with the likelihood that any infection to you or a member of your family or staff may result in you being unable to supply from your farm until it has been declared Covid free (possibly up to a minimum of fourteen days), it has the potential to have a severe economic effect on your operations.

For this reason (i.e. the economic survival of your farming operation), you must put in place a continuity plan to deal with the possibility of any farm related personnel being infected with the Covid Virus.

Andy Loader