Monthly Archives: February 2012

Women in #ag #farm Transition

Last week I attended the Women in Ag Conference in Kearney.  It’s always a great conference to see many friends and meet new ones who live and work in agriculture!  I also enjoyed teaching a very engaged group of women the second day about crop science investigation.  It was fun for me to see them dig into the hands-on activities!

The first session I attended was by Dave Specht from the UNL Ag Economics Dept.  He does a great job of relating to the audience and talked about “Woman’s Influence-the Key to Generational Business Transitions”.  Dave has a consulting business on the side and as part of that business he meets with families to develop a farm transitional plan based on the Continuity Quotient he developed.  The Quotient contains 7 parts and I’ll share some key highlights via questions he raised that stuck out to me.  Perhaps they’ll raise more questions for you as well.
 
1-Business/Estate Planning:  The goal of the business/estate plan is to reduce the number of surprises to the farm and family members upon death of the farm owner.  Is your plan coordinated with all the advisers in the operation and does it consider the perspectives of all the generations involved in the operation?  Is it even documented and has it been communicated to the entire family before the owner passes away?
2-Communication:  Are family members able to openly discuss the farm and what it means to them?
3-Leadership Development:  No one is ever “ready to take ownership”; it is learned along the way.  Opportunities for the next generation to make decisions need to be allowed.  Often we hear of exit plans, but is there an “entrance plan”-a strategy to invite the next generation back to the farm?
4-I didn’t catch the name of this point but essentially Dave was saying that if the next generation is always asking his/her parents for a bailout, that it delays the trust that the person can someday operate the farm.  How the next generation handles personal finances is important in showing he/she can someday run the operation.
5-Personal Resilience:  How does the next generation handle challenges?  Does the person retreat and avoid them or does the person look for ways to overcome them and use it as a growing experience?  If the person retreats, he/she may not be wired for ownership in the future.
6-Retirement/Investment Planning:  When will the older generation plan to retire?  How much will the farm support (meaning how many people)?  Where will retirement cash flow come from?  The goal is to not rely on the next generation to generate your entire retirement income.
7-Key non-family employees:  Sometimes the most valuable family business asset goes by a different name!  Is the vision for the family farm communicated to these employees?  How you talk about employees to next generation and how you talk to next generation about the employees is important in dictating future partnerships; someday the employees and next generation will be partners.

I would recommend checking out Dave’s Web site at http://www.davespecht.com for more information.  He provides communication and consultation about farm transition and financial planning.  Life is so short!  Make sure you have a plan in place that follows the keys Dave provided above!

This is a great blog post from Chris Chinn, a farmer in Missouri, who shares why her family raises pigs the way they do to protect them and keep them comfortable. You can read additional blog posts from her at http://chrischinn.wordpress.com

chrischinn

(Disclaimer:  The intent of this blog is to help people outside of agriculture to understand why some farmers choose to raise their animals indoors.  What works on my farm may not work for another farmer, each farm is different, as are the genetics of hogs.  My intent with this post is to help people understand why some farmers use modern technology on their farm.  Our family changed the type of hog we raise to be a leaner hog with less body fat because of consumer demand.  With that change came additional challenges to raising this type of pig in harsh weather conditions.  That is why we chose to move our animals inside of barns because the lean type of hogs we raise can not endure the weather as well as hogs with more body fat. This is not meant to be an indictment of farmers who choose to raise their hogs outdoors.)

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Today

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Cornhusker Economics Conference

The Cornhusker Economics Conference will focus on the ag outlook and management decisions for farmers and ranchers at Clay Center on February 29th at the Clay County Activities Building at the Clay County Fairgrounds.  The program will run from 10:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m.  The conference will cover key topics affecting farm management and production decisions for 2012. It is offered by UNL Extension and the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics and is sponsored in part by funding from the Nebraska Soybean Board. 

Dan O’Brien of Kansas State University will share his insight on grain and oilseed outlook and risk management decisions in today’s uncertain markets. While market volatility shows the need for sound hedging strategies, concerns about futures market performance and the recent MF Global bankruptcy affecting hedge margin accounts raise questions about the best path ahead for managing market risk. O’Brien will bring his experience and analysis of futures market performance to bear on the issues and discuss implications for producer decisions.

Shane Ellis, livestock marketing specialist at Iowa State University, will discuss the outlook for livestock markets and producer profitability. With outlook for meat demand and continued reductions in cattle supplies, the market fundamentals look strong, but must weigh against grain supplies and feed prices. Ellis will bring his expertise to the situation and provide guidance for producer marketing and production decisions in 2012.

The land market has also been moving in the past year and UNL Extension Educator Allan Vyhnalek will use his local knowledge and analysis to discuss land markets and leasing arrangements with implications for producer decisions.  The closing session will feature a focus on agricultural policy and the direction for new farm programs. Brad Lubben, policy specialist, will discuss the policy outlook in Washington and the major policy developments that could affect agriculture in 2011. Then, Lubben will team with UNL Extension educators to discuss specific directions for the new farm bill and implications for farm programs, conservation programs, and risk management decisions.

There is a $25 registration fee to cover programming expenses for speakers, materials, and the noon meal.  Please RSVP to Jenny Rees at the Clay County Extension Office at (402) 762-3644 or jrees2@unl.edu by Feb. 27 so we can obtain a meal count.  Hope to see you at the excellent conference!

This is a blog I have enjoyed reading; the author will be embedding with a Minnesota National Guard ADT team in April. Good lesson here of stepping back and understanding why people do the things they do before implementing a change that although may be beneficial in one component, may not have the desired effect in the long run!

Bridging War and Hope

As a television producer every once in awhile I take a step back and realize my job allows me to experience so much more than most.  Don’t get my wrong, my days are typically not packed with the sorts of things I’ve been writing about as I prepare to embed with the Minnesota National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team (ZADT) deployed in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.  During my more typical productions I am not preparing for travels to a war zone, most of of the time I’m not thinking about body armor, Visas or nearly 15,000 round trip miles of travel.  I do, however, routinely get the opportunity to meet very passionate, smart and inspiring people.  Today was no exception.

Dr. Ghafar Lakanwal and I met this morning over tea at a Starbucks in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Last week I was introduced to Dr. Lakanwal by chance through a mutual professional contact; however…

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Afghanistan #Ag Part7: Friends!

One of our favorite movies or series is Band of Brothers.  In fact we watched it again when my husband was home on leave.  I don’t know what it’s like to experience the strong bond formed between individuals during war, but I do know I am thankful for the close friends he has developed during this deployment.  Here are some pictures of friends.

Animal #Ag & Welfare

On Tuesday last week I attended the Animal Welfare and Current Industry Issus for Livestock Producers seminar in Lincoln.  I’ve attended several of these seminars in the past year to increase my understanding of how people in groups who attack animal agriculture think.  Please check out this resource page from UNL Extension containing fact sheets and taped seminars on animal welfare topics.  A survey done by K-State showed that 66% of those surveyed had not been on a farm in the past five years where eggs, meat, or milk were produced.  While we live in a rural area, this very much still applies to rural Nebraska.

Dr. Candace Croney from Purdue University spoke about her experiences with the ballot initiative in Ohio.  She shared much about the way people think about animal welfare issues.  We have what’s considered the “Disney effect” which influences the way we view animals.  I would venture to say we all watch Disney movies or have given a stuffed toy to someone.  Think about it; the animals in those movies can talk, show emotion, and don’t eat each other.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those movies; I’m just saying they personify animals which can influence how we view animals.

I grew up on a farm and we had many farm dogs over the years that we loved and cared for but they lived outside.  I never would have imagined I would have two inside dogs now that I’m married.  But those dogs have become like family to me as they have been here for me every time my husband has been gone with the military.  Croney said, “Animal welfare issues aren’t really about animals; they’re about what animals represent to us.”  Picture in your mind a dog and a pig.  Croney says, “The question for many people is how can you love the one and eat the other?”  To me, it’s simple.  I believe God created animals to provide our needs-food, shelter, clothing, and companionship.  But for those who really struggle with this question, there are two options available to them to help ease their conscience.  1-They can donate to a cause that portrays itself as helping animals to make themselves feel better or 2-There is a free option of voting for ballot initiatives when they come up in the State.  Please don’t think Nebraska is immune!  There’s already a group within Nebraska who is working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  For those of you who don’t know, HSUS is not your local animal shelter.  It’s an organization out to ban animal agriculture as we know it.  If you don’t believe it, read their information.  The other important thing to note in their information is their goal to divide sectors of production agriculture.  For example, organic vs. conventional ag or various ag commodity groups against each other.  We’re watching this unfold before our very eyes in Nebraska right now.  It’s very important that all sectors of agriculture stand together!

There’s been an effort to educate via social media.  Croney pointed out that often we are talking to ourselves; preaching to the choir.  We need to be reaching outlets that consumers are using such as Food Websites and TV programs.  Common Ground is one organization that is doing this through farm wives and moms sharing their stories with consumers in local grocery stores.  Ultimately, we need to learn how to engage in conversation.  Our message has often been “we provide safe affordable food for our families and the world”….we need to understand that consumers and those concerned about animal rights also have a compassion for animals and a concern for knowing how they were raised.  While there are always a few bad apples in any industry, most livestock producers take care of our animals before we take care of ourselves.  We need to listen to the concerns expressed by individuals and address their concerns by explaining why we do the things we do.  

There’s so much more to share; these issues affect consumers as well as our producers!  For now, please consider attending a local event to be held March 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sutton Community Center in Sutton.  Dewey Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator, will be presenting on “Protecting Animal Agriculture-Animal Rights & Other Issues”.  The meeting is being sponsored by the Sutton Chamber of Commerce and Ag Committee in addition to area Cattlemen Associations, Breeders & Feeders, and Ag Producer groups.  Please pre-register to Tory Duncan at (402) 773-5576 ccntory@gmail.com or Todd Mau at (402) 773-5224 todd@toddstrailers.com

Also, a reminder about the Cornhusker Economics Conference to be held February 29th at the Clay Co. Fairgrounds.  There’s truly something for everyone involved with production agriculture whether livestock, crops, marketing, or cash leases.  There is a $25 registration fee.  Perhaps check with your financial institution to see if they will offer a scholarship to attend this beneficial conference.  Please RSVP to me by Feb. 22 at jrees2@unl.edu or (402) 762-3644 so we can get a meal count. 

Beauty after the Snow Storm

Here are some pics I took during our snowstorm last Saturday and the beauty in it with the sun shining on Sunday.  While snow has started melting, cold temperatures are still keeping branches of trees and shrubs heavy.  If you can, carefully take a broom and knock off the snow on bushes and shrubs to help prevent branch breakage but don’t remove the snow from around the shrubs.  Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County and horticulture expert, speaks about winter tree care in this post.

Afghanistan #Ag Part6: #Food!

With the Super Bowl being this weekend, I thought what better time to write a post on Food and another one on Friends!  So here’s the food post.  Someday I hope to try some of these yummy-looking Afghan dishes!

 

Crazy?

Crazy?  Perhaps!  Which according to one of my farmer friends is a little typical of me when I put my mind to figuring out something.  So I had been analyzing my crop water use data from my dryland corn, sorghum, soybean crop water use comparison study.  It’s the one where we had coon problems this year and ended up trapping a skunk!  I noticed how much the soil moisture profile had been depleted and knowing we’ve received minimal precip during fall and winter, I wondered what our soil moisture profile would be for dryland fields by planting.  During a meeting yesterday I thought it would be good to install some watermark sensors to determine soil moisture profile recharge with the pending storm.  Problem was I was at a meeting over 100 miles from my equipment and the pending storm was starting today.  But I was still determined to get them in the ground as early as possible in order to measure the soil moisture status.  So I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to heavy rain.  Great!  It was such a gorgeous day yesterday, and the past week…past month…  The first thing my colleagues had asked me when I told them my idea was “Why didn’t you think of this sooner?”  Answer:  “Guess I needed a precipitation event!”  

So I drive to the field in the rain, get the gear together and start installing the sensors.  First foot went in easy with the rain that had soaked in.  Then it seemed like I tried for 20 minutes (although probably not near that long) putting all my weight on the soil probe to get the 2nd foot in.  Wind-driven rain soaked my jeans since I didn’t have rainpants on…fingers were numb from the cold.  I kept telling myself this will still hopefully be worth it!  On the research data from this field, the second foot was driest of all the crops (was depleted well above plant available water).  I got the third foot in and John, the man who farmed the field appeared.
While he thought it was crazy he graciously volunteered to help as he always does.  He put in the rest of the sensors while I
hooked everything up.  

The last several years we have been blessed to have a fully charged profile going into planting.  Even with this rain/snow event, I’m not sure we will have that in dryland fields in this area of Nebraska.  So I thought it would be interesting to know where we stood before planting and figured the farmers may want to know that as well.  Perhaps a little crazy regarding installing the sensors on such a bad weather day but hoping the data in the end will benefit our farmers and be worth it!

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