Stress. We all have it in life. I didn’t really think about how stress can be good until my colleague Brandy VanDeWalle asked us some questions during her presentation at the Cow-Calf College. She asked us what we look like with good stress. Thinking about it, good stress allows me to be that much more productive in achieving tasks. I’m not a procrastinator, but long gone are the days where I used to color code my planner. My experiences with the military and being in Extension allowed me to give all that up for being spontaneous and flexible with the changes and deadlines placed upon me each day. So that’s me and good stress. We were also asked what we look like with bad stress. Many of us shared we tend to withdraw from others and be shorter/abrupt in responses than we intend. Weather perhaps plays a huge role in adding stress to lives for those of us in agriculture.
Research has shown each person has around 70,000 thoughts per day with 80% of the more repetitive thoughts being negative. Wow-80% negative! That blew me away. But they don’t have to be. Research also showed that taking a 10 minute walk reduced cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain by 50-70%. Even if a person doesn’t walk, taking a break can help. Last week we lost a couple of Nebraska farmers and my heart goes out to their families. The National Farm Medicine Center in Wisconsin tracked farm suicides during the 1980’s in the Upper Midwest and found that the suicide rates were 58 for every 100,000 farmers and ranchers. Suicide rates today are more than 50 percent higher than they were in the 1980’s at the peak of the farm crisis.
It’s so hard to know what others are going through; so often we wear masks. I’ve done this too. We’re all prone to much pride in life, especially in the midst of struggling. I challenge us all to do more in 2019. Let’s pay more attention to those around us, spend more time connecting, be more honest about our situations. There’s so many times a simple text, phone call, email, or visit changed the outlook on my day. Last week a farmer shared how the weather made for a challenging time with calving; a neighbor stopped by and brought him a slice of breakfast pizza. That simple act of noticing his struggle and taking time to talk changed his outlook. So let’s check in with each other more and have the courage to be honest about how things are truly going. There’s also a number of free resources for help including: Nebraska Farm Hotline – 1-800-464-0258; Farm Mediation Clinics 1-800-464-0258; Nebraska Legal Aid: http://www.legalaidofnebraska.com.
Economics: In thinking through options for lowering input costs, there’s several things that come to mind. Some may even be good on-farm research projects to test. One consideration with the new farm bill is the fact that there will be an increase in CRP acres. So, producers have a decision to make regarding potentially enrolling acres into CRP. And, if doing that, perhaps converting some land next to that area into an annual forage system is another option if you have cattle. I will go into the details of this in another column. We have had some guys doing this and it’s just another alternative to consider.
Reducing soybean populations without affecting yields has been proven via on-farm research for 12 years now. I’ve documented this regardless of what has happened in-season. We even had a York county producer who did this study in 2018 and raised 93 bu/ac with a final average stand of 67,000 plants/ac! And, for those with dectes stem borer, my observation has been that dectes doesn’t penetrate the stems as easily on these thicker stems in lower population fields. I don’t have any research, though, so if you’re interested in testing that, please let me know.
Common thinking is that max yield provides max returns. There’s some things like early soybean planting that I will always push for increasing yields. But otherwise, I tend to look at that statement differently and ask if we always have to look at max yields. What if we looked at maximizing economics instead? I realize a lot of seed purchases have been made. There’s some strong flex hybrids that yield really well in non-irrigated environments. A couple of farmers have also mentioned this to me. We’re curious what would happen if we put them under irrigation at lower populations. It could even be an on-farm study to compare a low pop (28K or less), lower input system to one’s current system with higher inputs. However, the question would be which is most economical in the end. Please let me know if you’d be interested in trying this.
I’ve also had a handful of guys mentioning they were interested in sorghum because of the reduced input costs. For those of you who I worked with during the last farm bill who kept sorghum base acres, I mentioned it may be wise to plant sorghum somewhere on those farms before the next farm bill because we never know what will happen regarding payments. We’ve learned in this new farm bill that there will be a payment reduction for any crop not grown in the last 10 years that you have base acres for. So that may be another reason to consider planting some sorghum for the future. If it’s been awhile since you’ve planted sorghum, there’s a free sorghum symposium on January 24 in Grand Island at the Extension Office. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and you can RSVP at: 402-471-4276.