The weather over the last few days has provided an exclamation point to the end of the 2013 cropping season. With the exception of some fields of grain sorghum waiting to be harvested, crops are in the bin and the wheat that was going to be planted has been. Now is a time, unless you have cattle, to slow down a little and catch a breath. Or at least it used to be a “down” time. The saying goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and that applies to producer downtime, especially as the days of only growing wheat become a distant memory. So what takes up a producers days during late fall and winter?
* Reviewing the past cropping season and evaluating what happened, why, and what changes for next year might come from that evaluation. Good producers look at field trends over time and adjust accordingly. They evaluate how the varieties and hybrids planted performed. This has been made easier through technology. Computers and software allowing for the accumulation, organization, and interpretation of field histories make this task practical when reviewing everything from yields to nutrients applied and weed control. GPS and yield monitoring allow producers to break information down even further to make adjustments.
* Weather permitting and depending on the nutrients, producers can soil sample and check soil nutrient status.
* Equipment maintenance. Even the best producers let some repairs slide. In addition to winterizing necessary equipment, now is the time to start with maintenance in preparation for next season.
* Meetings. Between extension meetings, meetings held by various agribusiness concerns, and meetings by various producers and farm groups, an interested producer could attend pertinent local, state, regional, and even national meetings from now until April.
* Bookkeeping. Under this umbrella falls everything from starting to look at input costs and revenues to getting ready for the start of tax season and making sure the operation has or can obtain the operating funds for next season. Besides looking at the numbers, this often involves a visit to the accountant and/or banker.
* Pricing. Buying ahead of time and in bulk saves time and money down the road for an operation. Many producers have already selected their crop varieties and hybrids for next year. It’s time to lock in lower prices for items like fertilizer and herbicides.
There is certainly more but this list provides an idea of what goes on during “downtime.” Lastly, here’s wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to give thanks to the people who are responsible for producing the food on your table.