Playing the long game

Playing the long game

ADVICE
Agribusiness
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Don't fall into the trap of making short-term decisions to the detriment of your long-term goals.

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I want to talk about an interaction I had recently that demonstrated a misalignment between the walk and the talk.

Call me biased, however I believe farmers are the most passionate, innovative, smart and loyal group of people to work with (why I love doing what I do). The pride in your land, animals, crops, people is deep and there is a genuine desire to leave a legacy after your time is gone. I hear this talk all the time and observe a lot of work (walking the talk) making it a reality.

Riddle me this then: how do we fall into the trap of making a few short-term decisions to the detriment of this desired legacy? A few seemingly small decisions/actions that have lasting impacts where, if we really look at it, we aren't walking the talk.

The situation I saw involved a stock water system that wasn't delivering an adequate flow rate into troughs. The basis for using small pipes was to save money. When money is short this is valid... however you are better off putting in fewer troughs with good flow rates (what you can afford), than lots of troughs with low flow rate.

What happens when a mob hits a trough and the flow doesn't keep up? Animals stress, break stuff, can't drink enough, so they can't eat as much, then don't put on weight which reduces our profit and increases our stress. In this case the value of the lost production from low flow rates and animals breaking a float was greater than what it would have cost to put the right sized pipe in to start with.

If you improve your grazing management, land health and carrying capacity, this becomes a greater issue. It is sad to see how frustrating it is for a client do all this excellent work to increase carrying capacity - only to not have the water infrastructure to support more livestock. Particularly if the water system is quite new and they were 'saving money'! Do it once, do it well and then that will create the cash flow to develop the next water point properly.

Challenge yourself to make sure your current decisions and actions are setting up your land and business to help out your great-grandkids. I like to think about a 1000-year timeframe to make sure we are really playing the long game.

  • David is chief of delivery for agricultural consulting and education company, RCS Australia. www.rcsaustralia.com.au 1800 356 004
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