Flags Across the Harvest #7January 3, 2019
The inflection point.
Trying to understand a camshaft is one of the great mysteries of how an engine operates. At first glance it just appears to be what its nickname “Bump Stick” implies; a metal rod with bumps on it.
But when you delve into the actual theory of polynomial equations, jerk rate, acceleration, and ramp design, there is much more going on than meets the eye.
The area on the camshaft lobe where the valve lifter changes direction is identified as the inflection point. From then on, the lifter is either riding the lobe up toward the nose or going down toward the base circle of the camshaft.
Many incorrectly identify the sides of the lobe as the acceleration and deceleration ramp. This is false since
the lifter accelerates from zero velocity when exiting either the nose or base circle.
Just as the valve lifter changes direction at the inflection point so must your thought process on the farm, if you are to grow.
It is very easy (it happens to most of us if we are truthful) to lose your way when farming, doing things the same every year.
For your operation to be successful every aspect of it needs to be under constant review. If you do not do this then it would be like applying the same fertility plan regardless of the crop you are raising and without a soil test. In the same manner that the valve lifter changes direction, so must some aspects of your operation.
I am using a valve lifter acting on the lobe of a camshaft as a metaphor, even though that motion is repeated a countless number of times as an engine is running, and it is confined to a dedicated pathway.
The decisions on a farm cannot truly be likened to the rotation of a camshaft, but just as the lifter is forced to dwell first and then change course, so must we adjust to the many dynamics of our business, if we want to remain profitable in the ever-changing environment.
One of your considerations should be the rethinking of the use of a diesel engine for some applications in your operation.
The two major obstacles against a diesel are the upfront cost and the complexity of the emissions control system.
Order a diesel in a pick-up truck and you just added around $9,000.00 to the price over its gasoline counterpart. Would that money be spent better elsewhere on the farm? In most instances I believe so.
I agree that a diesel delivers a huge amount of torque over a gasoline engine; torque is what moves the load. We all “buy” horsepower and “drive” torque. But a gas engine can move the load also.
Today’s spark ignition engines have become more powerful and are superior in performance in many ways to the diesels from only a few years back.
Another area to reconsider when profit margins are thin is to look at all expenditures through the microscope of yield of your major crop.
In the past a major purchase was referenced in dollars, and what I am suggesting is to look at it in bushels, bales, or 100 weight.
For example, you and your wife are considering the purchase of a state-of-the-art television set for $2,000.00, even though there is nothing wrong with your current one.
Prior to instituting an inflection point in your thought process, the purchase may not even come on your radar.
If you apply farm production to the purchase, let’s say milk for a dairy operation and you are receiving $16/CWT, your cows need to produce 12,500 pounds of milk for that TV. When it is viewed in this light, you may quickly conclude that your old TV is more than good enough.
Inflection point thinking should be applied to expanding your education on every aspect of your operation and especially the machinery.
It never ceases to amaze me how a ridiculous image or video can be posted on social media and it quickly receives thousands of views and retweets or the equivalent, while something of consequence that has value in profiting your operation garners little activity.
A casual observer would conclude that the agricultural community is more interested in an image of a cow relieving itself than learning about their business… and they would be correct.
As an industry we also need to change the direction of our thinking when attending educational meetings and workshops; applying what is relevant to our farm or ranch. Statistically, those that are sitting in the audience of any seminar return home and apply little to nothing that was discussed. Why invest your time and money to attend a seminar and do nothing with it? You want the free lunch? That makes no sense.
The market conditions of any business need without a doubt to be understood and taken under consideration for all decisions on the farm.
But in the same manner that the base saturation values on a soil test need to be examined since they add up to 100%, our thinking must do the same.
If the calcium/magnesium ratio is out of balance it may not be that you need more calcium, but rather to wash some of the magnesium out. A different approach than one may first believe is often required.
There is no doubt that we are in interesting and conflicting times in agriculture. It is my opinion many of us make them worse than they need to be since we do not modify the thought process and approach to our business.
We fixate on crop prices and ignore the changes that we can make to become successful at the current price point. Market pricing should be an important part of your business decisions but if it becomes your singular focus, then often your concern will be your obstacle to success.
Take a lesson from the camshaft and examine when the valve lifter of your business needs to reach the inflection point and change direction… if only temporarily.