Cows and Crops, February 2016


By Rick Kersbergen, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension,

In This Issue

Take time to think about three things to improve your farm business

At times, it seems that there are hundreds of things to think about. That can be paralyzing. Instead, focus your thoughts on three things.

Posted on January 7, 2016 by Phil Durst, Michigan State University Extension

The New Year is an opportunity to think about your business. But that is a broad prospect, and therefore, somewhat daunting. Michigan State University Extension has a way to better define that; think about just three things. Let’s start with the first, think about one thing from the past year.

Think about one thing;

  • for which you are particularly thankful
  • that you accomplished
  • that you did not succeed at
  • you believe you can improve

By focusing on these things it helps to define strengths and weaknesses in the past year. Defining strengths and weaknesses helps to direct the improvements that should be made and the areas that you can build on.

Next turn your attention to the year ahead and think about the next thing;

  • you want to accomplish
  • you want to avoid
  • you will get more help with
  • you will do better

Thinking ahead about the future helps you to lay out some short-term goals to keep the operation moving forward. It also prompts you to seek help and to determine how to do something better. Thinking about the next thing doesn’t allow for status quo, it is about making positive change in the operation.

Lastly, the third thing to think about is the most important thing. What are the most important long-term goals for your business? Think about where the business needs to head. Think about the changes that have to take place in your business. These changes could be in facilities, size and scope of the business, personnel, or management.

As you think about the most important things, then:

  • Define and write it down in a concise statement.
  • Defend your goal. Why is it important? What are the benefits? What are the costs?
  • Spend time planning to implement it.
  • Set dates to implement it. Make time to research it, talk about it, and to start it.

All too often we fail in one of two ways; either we fail to foresee what changes are most important or we fail because although we know what is most important, we never get around to it. Either way, we waste time, effort and money on less productive things that do not accomplish what really needs to be done.

These three points can help one partner within a business explain it to other partners, including a spouse, parent or sibling. Completing these steps creates a timeframe to move it along. Something that is truly of great importance should be accomplished in a reasonable timeframe.

Business operations, whether they are farms or downtown businesses, have to reflect, improve and change. That happens when owners spend time reflecting and planning for the business. Set time aside to start on this process and improve your operation.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, subscribe to Extension News. To contact an expert in Michigan, visit the Staff Directory or call 888.MSUE4MI (888.678.3464).

Maine Dairy Seminar — March 15 in Waterville

The Maine Dairy Seminar and MDIA Annual Meeting is scheduled for in March 15th, 2016 at the Waterville Elks. The program is put on by the Maine Dairy Industry Association and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Brochure (PDF)

To register for the meeting, call Melissa at 1.800.287.7170

This year’s featured speaker will be Dr. Gabriella A. Varga, Professor Emeritus from the Department of Dairy and Animal Science at Penn State University. While on faculty Dr. Varga conducted research and had both teaching and extension appointments in the department. Her research focused on management strategies for late gestation and early postpartum dairy cows, along with strategies that enhanced profitability on the dairy farm. She helped author the most recent edition of the National Research Council’s “Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle”.

Her research program has incorporated basic and applied concepts to provide an understanding of factors affecting the needs of the dairy cow.  She continues to provide educational information that can be used directly by the dairy producer. Gabriella has taught undergraduate and graduate level classes in dairy management, animal nutrition and ruminant physiology. She currently is a coach for the PSU Dairy Challenge team and participates on many dairy profit teams throughout Pennsylvania.

At the Dairy Seminar, Dr. Varga will focus on pre- and post- fresh feeding and management. In the morning session, she is going to cover the importance of cow comfort, effect of body condition, cow movement, nutritional strategies for feeding the dry cow, application of a low energy diet, and the economic impact of a well-managed transition period. The afternoon session will be focused on feeding the fresh cow to minimize ketosis and acidosis, practical methods to monitor performance and health, and grouping strategies.

2016 Maine Grain Conference — March 23, 2016

Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle, ME

This year’s conference theme is post harvest handling with three guest speakers sharing their expertise and experience in this important area of grain production.

Eric Thériault of Eastern Grains Inc in Drummond NB is a seed producer, primarily of oats, barley, soybeans and wheat, but also includes forage seeds as well.  Eric, through his years of experience in grain production, also currently markets and advises on grain handling equipment including silos, augers, elevators, cleaners, and dryers

Loïc Dewavrin of Les Fermes Lonpres grows and processes a diverse mix of crops on their 1500-acre organic farm in Les Cèdres QB.  In addition to their oil press business they have recently added a roller mill to produce white flour.

Kenneth Hellevang of North Dakota State University is an agricultural engineer specializing in post harvest handling.

In addition we will learn about cover cropping options in grains and hear results from field pea, malting barley and winter grain nitrogen management trials.

Save March 23 on your calendar and look for upcoming registration information!

2015 Tax time … What’s new?

If you need a hard copy of the IRS Farmers Tax Guide, call 1.800.287.1426.

The following items highlight a number of administrative and tax law changes for 2015. They are discussed in more detail throughout the publication.

Standard mileage rate. For 2015, the standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car, van, pickup, or panel truck for each mile of business use is 57.5 cents.

Section 179 expense deduction dollar limits. The maximum amount you can elect to deduct for most section 179 property you placed in service in 2015 is $25,000. This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of the property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $200,000. For more information on this important change visit Michigan State University Extension’s website.

Maximum net earnings. The maximum net self-employment earnings subject to the social security part (12.4%) of the self-employment tax increased to $118,500 for 2015. There is no maximum limit on earnings subject to the Medicare part (2.9%) or, if applicable, the Additional Medicare Tax (0.9%).

Social security and Medicare tax for 2015. The social security tax rate is 6.2% each for the employee and employer, unchanged from 2014. The social security wage base limit is $118,500.The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer, unchanged from 2014. There is no wage base limit for Medicare tax.