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Are you an expert?

FG Editor Lynn Olsen Published on 14 August 2012

I was browsing the most recent issue of the Miner Institute Farm report and came across an article titled “Stumping the Experts” by Ev Thomas. He writes, in part:

“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something happens to remind you that you haven’t. The latest is the frost damage to alfalfa-grass stands that occurred in many parts of the Northeast and upper Midwest.

February and March brought record warm weather, including 70- and 80-degree days in early March. Alfalfa, sensing that spring was here, broke dormancy and started growing.

Then “normal” weather returned, including a couple of nights when temperatures dropped into the low 20s.

“This froze the tender new alfalfa growth, not killing the plants but setting them .... Grasses weren’t nearly as affected, so in many fields the grass shot past the alfalfa and reached... the ideal harvest time... when the alfalfa was scarcely a foot tall.

“Farmers then had a difficult choice: Harvest the field when the grasses were ready, potentially injuring alfalfa plants that were just starting to recover from the effects of frost, or wait until the alfalfa was in the bud stage – the ideal combination of yield and quality – and have the long-since headed grass result in poor overall forage quality.

“Pondering these options, farmers asked ‘the experts’ what to do. The answer, in many cases, was: ‘Gee, we’re not sure.’ That’s because we all were in uncharted territory.... Because even the experts are limited by the experiences they and others have had, and this was a new one to most all of us.”

The dictionary defines an expert as “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.”

Based on that definition, I think many of our producers could and should be considered “experts” in their craft, as well.

Years of experience have given them opportunities to learn what works and what doesn’t. They have made improvements on their farms based on those lessons and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

But what do you do when presented with a new challenge, perhaps something you’ve never seen or experienced before?

The “experts” referred to earlier “immediately began a research project in an attempt to answer (the) questions.” In other words, they tried to make the best of a difficult situation and learn something from it.

I know many of you are struggling this year, many with problems unlike you have ever experienced before. Hot and cold temperatures, severe drought, insect problems and other issues are making it a challenge.

But I also know that with every test comes an opportunity to learn, to become better and to add to your expertise.

What can you do to make the most of this tough year? A few suggestions:

• Read articles and talk to other people – growers, allied industry, extension, etc. Find out all you can about the situation and learn what they know to see how you might be able to use that information on your farm.

• Don’t give away what you do have. If you can only harvest half as much as you usually do, make sure it is at peak quality, and then do all you can to preserve it (e.g. use hay tarps, proper packing in the silage pile, etc.).

• Work with your financial advisers. Start conversations early with your banker or insurance agent. If they know ahead of time some of the difficulties you are facing, perhaps together you can come up with answers that will help you stay in business over the long haul.

• Remain positive and keep an optimistic outlook. Yes, I know this one sounds cliché, but mental attitude really does make a difference.

When you look for the good, you generally find it. But when you focus on the bad, soon that becomes all you can see.

We will continue to do our best to bring you as much information as we can to help you remain profitable and continue to become an “expert” in the business of growing forage.

And if you have knowledge to share, we’d love to hear from you, too. Together we’ll make it through another year.  FG


Lynn Olsen

Progressive Forage Grower