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OCTOBER = plan + prepare for next season

October 2017

The harvest is in and your maize has been stored or sold. Now starts the planning and preparation for the next season. This process should already have started a few months before the start of the planting season. Advanced planning is crucial to a successful farming enterprise.

Before doing any financial planning for the season ahead, firstly make sure that you have cleared your production loan from the previous year. If this was not possible due to drought or unforeseen circumstances, then it is vital to make arrangements to pay back the carry over debt. Once this had been dealt with, then your first plan of action should be making financial arrangements for the upcoming season. This includes meeting with financial service providers who will hopefully give you a production loan for the season to come. It is vital to do this in the pre-season so that you can create cash flows and budget for the next year. Once your finances have been taken care of then you can focus on farming.

After harvesting it is good practice to take soil samples and see what your soil nutrient levels are like. This is vital as it will have an impact on your fertiliser orders. These orders should also be made a few months in advance in order to save on any possible price increases that may occur before the planting season starts. Be sure that all fertiliser is stored safely under roof where it will be dry and where the bags will not be damaged.

Plan in advance what maize cultivar you are going to plant and what your seed requirements will be. This will be determined by your geographical location and the plant population that you feel is best suited to your location. It is a good idea to consult with a seed representative when making these decisions. By making your seed orders early you will avoid any possible shortages of seed. You will also avoid planting a crop or cultivar which is not your first choice.

Many farmers make the mistake of underestimating the value of a good chemical spray program. If your lands are clean and there is no unnecessary competition for moisture and nutrients from weeds, then your yields will be significantly better. Better yields mean more money and increased profits. Your chemical program can also be planned in the pre-season with the help of a chemical representative. These products can be ordered in advance and should be stored safely under lock and key in your shed.

In October all machinery and equipment should be ready for action. This is when farmers are usually playing the waiting game with the weather. As soon as the first rains arrive then you need to be able to get to work and get your planting underway. To do this however, you need to be sure that everything is in good working order. Land preparation equipment should be standing cleaned and serviced in your shed or yard waiting to be hooked up. Spray rigs should be cleaned out and rinsed and all nozzles need to be working well. Tractors should all be in good working order with any niggles taken care of in the quiet winter months. And most importantly your planter MUST be ready to go.

This piece of equipment has the most crucial job of all which is why you should spend a lot of time on the planter so that you can be sure that everything is running smoothly.

This includes checking bearings, chains, hydraulic pumps, wheels, shafts and anything that turns and moves on the machine. If there is any doubt that something is not working one hundred per cent than you should replace it. Doing this in the pre-season will save you valuable time when planting is underway. There is nothing worse than getting to a field to start planting and having a breakdown after only a few turns.

One should also be sure to plan your staffing before the busy season. Farmers usually hire additional help during planting time. Farm labourers also tend to work longer hours at these times. This is why it is important to arrange temporary staff beforehand so that they are on standby for action. Make sure that you negotiate overtime rates before the season starts which are in line with legal rates in order to avoid any possible disputes at the end of the busy period.

Farming is a business and every aspect of a business should be taken seriously. Time and care needs to be put into planning and budgeting as well as maintenance and servicing if one wishes for your business to be successful. Remember that time is valuable especially when it is limited. If your planning is done well beforehand then it will leave you with valuable time to be more effective and efficient during the physical hands on period of the season.

Article submitted by Gavin Mathews, Bachelor in Environmental Management. For more information, send an email to gavmat@gmail.com.

Publication: October 2017

Section: Pula/Imvula