Don’t allow change to catch you napping

At times, new developments might seem to come like a bolt out of the blue. But if you keep up with trends, you’ll be forewarned of change and have time to adapt, writes Roelof Bezuidenhout.

Don’t allow change to catch you napping
As farmers often spend days out on the farm from dusk to dawn, many find it difficult to keep up to date with current news and trends in the industry. Photo: United Soybean Board

The farming world has never been particularly receptive to rapid change. Farmers don’t readily abandon a method that has always worked in favour of one they are not sure of or believe may be too expensive to implement.

Less than a century ago, some grain farmers kept up to 50 oxen on the veld just to plough their lands, long after tractors had become an option. Today, despite the obvious benefits of drones, many farmers have yet to buy one.

While some farmers certainly get hooked on technological innovations or gadgets long before these become essential for their particular businesses, it’s also true that other farmers wait too long to fall in line with trends.

A good example of this is the seemingly sudden importance of traceability, animal welfare and good farming practices in the animal fibre industry. Over the years, wool and mohair farmers were warned again and again that these would become more important, and non-compliant producers would suffer price penalties.

That day duly arrived, as if out of the blue, catching some unawares.

Regardless of what you produce or how isolated your farm is, you now have to be acutely aware that consumer markets are changing faster than anyone can predict, and that technology can keep tabs on your activities.

Some changes will come your way faster than others, and this calls for informed anticipation. It would be interesting, for example, to see how quickly the market for vegan hamburgers takes off and how it eventually affects the meat industry.

Isolation can lead to ignorance
For many farmers, keeping up with the news and staying abreast of technological and market developments is easier said than done. The reason is that they run one-person businesses that keep them on the move from dawn to dusk.

They can get so absorbed in their day-to-day activities that they lose touch with what’s happening out there in the wider world, despite the availability of the Internet.

It’s not unusual for such farmers, especially on remote, extensive livestock farms, to go for days on end without seeing or even speaking to an outsider. These farmers can effectively become prisoners on their own farms, always working, always double-checking, and hardly ever going anywhere.

Keeping your own company is not conducive to gaining essential information. As difficult as it may be at times, you need to get out, meet people in the know, and update yourself on what’s happening in your industry. This means not only price movements, but the latest trends on anything and everything that might have a bearing on your future as a farmer.

Anything less leaves the door open for unpleasant surprises that could cost you dearly in lost opportunities or added headaches in both the short term and the long term.

If nothing else, a little more information can overcome some of the paralysis that results from uncertainty.