Farm Management Minute: March Madness Observations |

Farm Management Minute: March Madness Observations

Will Walter
Instructor, SD Center of Farm/Ranch Management
farm design
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

There has been a multitude of basketball games to watch, listen to, and read about for the past month. In this same time frame I have been reviewing the 2016 data of participants in our F/RBM program. Last year was generally another low profitability year. While trying to assist (pun intended) producers with their cash flow projections, an ”open shot” for profits in 2017 does not look very promising. However, as with any obstacle, calculating the correct options (plays) to implement at various times in the season very likely will determine your level of success and allow you to keep participating in the big dance (continue farming more years). For the sake of this article, I seek to compare basketball with production agriculture.

Myself having been a very active player in each of these sports, I will share some observations. 1) Even if you are a sole proprietor, a team effort is required. You need your labor support staff, marketing professional, agronomy consultant, equipment technician, veterinarian, nutrition specialist, and lender always available as 1 of 5 on the floor or have their warm ups off and ready to check in at the next dead ball. You will need to be player-coach-general manager. Could there be an equivalent to Coach Phil Jackson as a farm manager? 2) The team with the most spectacular highlights does not always win. Instead of solely shooting for 3-pointers to possibly be the high scorer or obtain the highest yield, focus on the bits and pieces that will keep you going another year. Reducing family living, equipment purchases, custom work and outside repair bills won’t make the highlight reels, but can certainly help your bottom line. Think of these as blue-collar stats like taking a charge, being the player who created the steal, got a timely jump ball or altered a shot. 3) You may have to practice and train harder at the things that aren’t as fun as “getting in the field”. I often hear folks say how they despise recordkeeping and marketing…….. Rebounding and defensive drills are not always the most fun but being sound at both can prevent the opponent (weeds or diseases) from getting an open shot and/or allowing him only one attempt per possession. Good defense may also produce a steal. A steal is an opportunity but it does not have to be utilized immediately. Instead of a transition fast break, just gaining possession of the ball again for a chance to implement a new play is a bonus. 4) Free throws win many more games than slam-dunks. However, guess which one a player likes to practice in their free time? You may only get 1-2 chances for a breakaway dunk in your career-or for 300 bu/ac. corn @ $7.00-but if you can work to improve your free throw percentage from 60% to 80% you will likely score many more points in your career. I would assimilate this with selling in the top 1/3 of the commodity market over many years vs. one time holding out and be the only one of your colleagues who sold 1,000 bushels over $5.00. Selling 10,000 bushels at 4.97 may have been a better sale. To be most realistic, practicing free throw shots should occur when you may be tired, sore and have sweat running in your eyes like an end of game scenario. This is similar to marketing exercises. Following a trade from a classroom worksheet is not the same as fielding margin calls or delivery notices, etc. of your own commodity.

We all know basketball is a game played on a measured rectangular “field” with the goal at the same height each game or season. Thus, much different from a livelihood that exists with the many variables of weather conditions and other things a crop/livestock producer cannot control. Nevertheless, if you earn the privilege to shoot a free throw it does not matter your height, style of shooting, color of tractor or size of operation. You can score if you’ve practiced the technique and are unaffected by the crowd……… A reminder though, if you make both shots don’t be cocky and get your tail back on defense!

With what seemed like eyes on the back of his head for passing, hustling to be in the right place at the right time, a great field goal and free throw shooter, etc. I would like Larry Bird on my team for marketing crops and sorting cattle. By the way, he didn’t dunk very often.


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