By David G. Hallauer
Given the current volatility in agriculture, I'm glad that marketing was not my chosen profession. Keeping up with all of the factors that make both the commodity and input markets jump would be difficult at best, right now. But marketing isn't all that goes into the economics side of your business. Forward planning, recordkeeping, and budgeting are all players in what makes an operation profitable year in and year out, maybe as much or more than does marketing.
We're fortunate in Extension to have an excellent group of agricultural economists that put out more information than you could even digest on topics such as leases and farm planning. Most all of it is available at your local Extension office or on the web at www.agmanager.info. Their lease information and spreadsheet tools are excellent aids as you make business decisions.
The website also includes KSU Farm Management budgets. It can be difficult to put together a good synopsis of your operation with receipts here and checks there and, in some cases, not a lot of information to 'fill in the blanks.' These budgets give you real numbers to compare your operation to. You can even put your numbers in and see where you stand. It might just give you an idea as to the strength of your operation or where some fine tuning may be needed.
We also have an excellent group of Farm Management economists with the Kansas Farm Management Association. With the prospect of some interesting and, no doubt, challenging times over the next couple of years, the services of these professional economists may be just the ticket. The assistance they can give with tax preparation is worth the price of membership alone.
If your economics could use some evaluation, consider one of these tools. Economics isn't always fun, but it is integral to your operation and these tools can make it easier.
Christmas leftovers are for the birds
Now before someone thinks I'm against leftover potatoes and gravy, think again. I'm talking about some of your other Christmas leftovers. Believe it or not, they do have some value to that bird population out there.
Chip Miller, K-State horticulture agent, notes that lots of Christmas leftovers can have some use for your avian friends. Snack food like grapes, cherries, bananas and pears can, of course, be used, but so can stale popcorn and bread and nuts, particularly peanuts, pecans, and most native nuts. Even waste fat can provide a high calorie feedstuff that is readily converted to heat or energy. He notes that an easy recipe of a combination of two cups cornmeal, one cup peanut butter and any other suitable ingredients stirred into two cups of melted fat can be cooked and poured into feeder containers.
And it gets better. Leftover whole-wheat toast from breakfast, cornbread, stale doughnuts from Christmas morning, old crackers from the office soup luncheon, all can be used. Just be careful to avoid meat and milk products. Neither are good for bird feeders or compost bins and tend to attract varmints dangerous to birds.
And one other thing--after you remove the decorations from your natural Christmas tree, it can be tossed outside (away from buildings or other flammable structures) to provide birds with winter shelter. Combined with a little feed, an excellent habitat has just been created.