Farm management: Half a plan is better than no plan


By Digital team | 25 September 2018
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Photo: Nico van Burick

For a farm, or any kind of business, to succeed, it must be managed properly. Precise planning is critical because it is the foundation on which all other management tasks are based.

To manage properly implies that the four management tasks – planning, organising, implementing and control – must be performed properly, with each task receiving the attention needed to keep the business running smoothly over time to achieve set objectives, such as making a profit.

Planning must be the farmer’s most critical task, since it is the foundation on which all his farming activities are based. It could be described as the determination of future activities that are needed to achieve the specific objectives of the business and then to express the activities in a scheme of some nature (plans) on how to accomplish them.

It’s often alleged that a person cannot plan rationally in the farming situation. The reason given is that farming is subject to too many uncertainties and risks, such as climatic conditions, diseases and supply and price fluctuations of inputs and products.

It cannot be denied that such risks and variables are unique to agricultural production, and that they pose a challenge in terms of planning for a farm business. But half a plan is better than none at all. It is advisable to plan according to an average year and to adjust plans, should extreme circumstances occur during that year.

When planning, specific attention should be paid to: What must be done? Where must it be done? When must it be done? How much should be done? How must it be done?

PRACTICAL PLANNING

  • This requires the expression of plans in written form.
  • It requires discipline – one must do it, and continue to do it until it becomes a habit.
  • Planning could be done using a diary, a board of some sort or electronically.
  • The more you plan in this way, the more realistic plans become because they are based on past experience and information.

Planning is usually annually based and performed every year – it details what will be done during the next year on the farm. But there should also be a long-term plan based on future production.

LONG-TERM PLANS

A long-term plan is a very broad plan indicating what is planned to be produced on the farm in the long term – up to 5 years ahead or even longer.

For example: Plan to produce 500 ha of cash crops per year, to produce meat off the veld and to produce broilers.

An annual plan should consist of at least two sections:
General plan:
This should indicate, in broad terms, the general action to be completed during the next year such as painting a building, erecting a new fence, maintaining fences, buying another plough, courses/farmers’ days that will be attended, and so forth.

General activities for the 2011 annual plan could include the following:

  • Paint the workshop and tractor store.
  • Erect a dam in Camp 9.
  • Repair and maintain all fences.

Production plan:
This should indicate what will be produced specifically for the year, how much and how, and also how each product will be marketed.

Production activities for the an annual plan, for example, could include:

  • Plant 400 ha yellow maize for farm purposes, balance to be sold per contract to a nearby feedlot.
  • Plant 100 ha sunflower, to be sold per contract.
  • Produce 200 x 20-month-old steers off the veld to be sold to YYY Supermarket.
  • To produce 40 000 broilers per month to be sold to XXX Chicken Wholesalers.

SHORT-TERM PLANS

A monthly plan can be compiled from the annual plan. For example, for May:
General
Paint workshop and tractor store

Production plan
Maize: Scout all lands
Sunflower: Harvest 100 ha

Cattle:

  • Supply winter lick to all animals
  • Supply creep feeding to all calves
  • Wean the first of the calves, determine their mass and brand all calves
  • Dose calves
  • Determine the mass of all animals

Broilers:

  • Perform all daily activities
  • Market House 2
  • Prepare House 3 for a new batch of chickens

At the beginning of every month the plans for each week of the month, can be drawn up. The bases for the weekly plans are the monthly plans, both in general terms and production wise.

DAILY PLANS

The final plan should be the daily plan, drawn up at the end of the previous week and indicating in more detail what will be done each day the following week.

See the table below for an example of a weekly plan.

The shorter the term planned for, the more detail should be added to the plans.

And remember that plans can, and will, never be rigid, especially not in a farm business. There are too many unforeseen events, such as veld fires, breakages or illness of a stud bull.

Planning as a management task serves as the basis for organising and implementing. Without planning there can be no proper control, because planning serves as the first step in the control task by setting the standards needed for control.

During the process of planning and also organising, implementing and control, the manager needs also to be committed to his other management activities namely leadership, communicating, motivating, delegating, coordinating, taking decisions and maintaining discipline.

The extent of involvement in these activities will be determined by the size of the business.

Also read:
Learn more about planning and money matters

  • This article was written by Marius Greyling and first appeared in Farming SA.