Midsummer Project Update

Despite a modest acreage increase this year, we were determined to avoid adding staff and equipment. Timely execution of crop operations would be accomplished by working smarter. Better planning and training of personnel would result in the needed productivity gains. Improvement projects and machinery upgrades would have a lower priority.

Sustainable growth requires an occasional plateau year to allow for refinement of practices and restocking the “cookie jar.”

We may have succeeded in getting the work done on time, but our downsized project list looks suspiciously ambitious. Is there a twelve step program for “Build-aholics?”

The Felper Farm bin site was deconstructed and cleared, adding 4 acres of cropland and eliminating an inconvenient lot on an otherwise unobstructed half section.

The two biggest bins were moved to the Meyer Bin site, erected on new concrete pads, raised to add capacity, and tied into the existing system with new unloading equipment. For a relatively low budget project, operating cost savings and grain condition benefits were huge.

Excavation for the second LeRoy hog site finisher began early June. This new double wide, power ventilation barn has all the features and innovations we wish were available when we built our first barns 13 years ago. Am I the only one who wishes the rate of change would slow down?

EPO Energy is  wrapping up installation of the 250KW solar system at McIntire. From there they are moving on to install five more systems at selected hog sites. We are limiting this initiative to locations serviced by utilities that give retail value for 100% of production. Hopefully, we will follow up with more systems if system output matches advertised claims.

The concrete bunker walls were sold allowing us to create more parking where the old hoop building was. Our goal is to clean up and rearrange the space east of the bins, develop a comprehensive parking plan, improve compliance with parking assignments, and save time looking for vehicles. I believe we can reduce the frequency with which vehicles mysteriously disappear, only to be discovered a week later in the wrong place.

We upgraded from 6″ to 8″ hose for manure application. Bigger hose carries more volume at lower pressure, increasing acres per day while lowering pump fuel usage. This investment is easily the best opportunity to improve manure application efficiency.

Other noteworthy upgrades include combine replacement, grain cart trade, field driveway installations, ditch crossings, and a variety of precision tech trinkets.

Anyone who’s visited my office lately knows it lacks air conditioning. The personal satisfaction of elevating my tolerance for extreme temperature is giving in to guilt for not prioritizing my guest’s comfort. Spoiler alert: the 2019 project list might include A/C in Jim’s office.

Our desire to be cautious as we considered investments that improve operations is a response to low margins and rising borrowing costs. Balancing the competing goals of debt reduction while investing in future competitiveness requires discretion.

There is a consensus at Pinicon that all mentioned projects pass the test, however cookie jar replenishment may have suffered. Our default has always been to bet on tomorrow. So, as Shania Twain say’s, “Dance with the one that brung ya.”

Weather lately has been very pleasant, good for crops, livestock, and humans. Could we possibly have four awesome crops in a row?

Stay tuned.