Often in conversations with producers about cost and expenses on the farm, I hear comments about how you can’t count expense of your time for work on the farm. They say “my time isn’t worth much”. I also hear comments like “my time is too valuable to waste doing x, y, or z” (you fill in the blank here). But most people haven’t taken time to figure out what their time could be worth. On the farm, there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. Time is like money, but everyone has the same amount. Like money, we often wonder “where did the time go?”. You spend time doing something every day and at the end of the day that time is gone. You can’t really save time, but you can do farm practices that require less time. Some practices save money and also require less time which makes life better. So why not consider spending your time in more ways to make money or to save money instead of just spending it. For example, taking soil samples may require an hour of work per field when you figure time for finding the soil probe, a bucket, soil bags or boxes, sampling time, and time to deliver samples to the county Extension office. But suppose you typically apply 250 lbs/acre of 17-17-17 fertilizer and the soil test results showed you didn’t need phosphorus for those fields. In this case soil tests just saved you $18 per acre so for 40 acres you just saved $720. Now what was that time worth?
In the Arkansas 300 Day Grazing Program we often hear how certain practices not only save money, but require a lot less time. For example, many producers harvest hay all summer to feed hay all winter. That approach requires a tremendous time investment and financial cost. Hay harvest on a typical farm may require two to three weeks or more during summer and feeding during winter can require two hours or more per day totaling over 270 hours. I talked to a producer this winter about his forage program. He said that the stockpiled forage system that he started years ago has been one of the best things he has ever done. He said “It takes me and my six year old son about 35 minutes twice a week to move an electric fence wire on the stockpiled bermudagrass and fescue fields to feed 250 cows. There is no way I can feed hay that fast. Plus it’s lots cheaper than hay”. Another producer commented that he spent a day in the fall planting winter annual forages and the winter grazing from it saved him a huge amount of hay feeding.
Recommended 300 Day Grazing practices were verified through over 150 demonstrations and more than $300,000 documented savings. The program was featured in articles, interviews, magazines, and conferences throughout the Southeast and Midwest. The 300 Day Grazing team hosted five groups from other states on demonstration farms tours. Now the program is also being copied in some manner in programs developed by the University of Kentucky, Oklahoma State University, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and University of Georgia. An Arkansas research study is underway at SWREC that shows that the 300-day grazing approach is also cost-effective for southern forage systems. However, the program has met opposition from some producers who are convinced that it just won’t work. The most common comment from producers regarding why they don’t adopt 300-day grazing principles is “I just don’t have time to do …… (fill in the blank).” So a new educational approach is being proposed for the 300 Days Grazing Program called “It’s About Time”. In the “It’s about time” program we will document the time-effectiveness along with cost effectiveness of key practices that can be adopted by small parttime operators as well as large commercial operators. We will measure how much time is needed for hay harvest and hay feeding. We will look at hay yield per acre to determine if improving yield would save on harvest time requirements. Time required for winter grazing vs. hay feeding will be documented along with the costs of each method. Other livestock and forage practices will be evaluated for time requirement vs economic return. Sometimes just taking time to think about how you spend your time is the most valuable thing you can do. What is your time on the farm worth? We hope to find out with the new “It’s about time” program.