Interesting and informative blog posts on farmers and ranchers from US Farm Data.

Marketing to farmers through the use of digital campaigns is becoming much more popular and it is easy to see why. Farmers—like most people—are spending more and more time online these days, with much of that time being spent on mobile devices.

Despite the rise in digital marketing efforts, it is still relatively difficult to measure the success of these type of campaigns. After all, no matter how many clicks your campaign receives, those clicks don’t mean much if they fail to generate leads. Further, there is no way to judge which clicks signal interest in your brand and which do not. Did a consumer click on your ad by accident? How did an individual respond to your ad once he or she clicked on it? So if clicks aren’t an effective way to measure the success of an online marketing campaign, how can success be measured?

It all comes down to knowing what happens after a consumer clicks on an ad. How long did they spend on the page? Did they request more information? Did they fill out an order form or join your email list? Did they return to your site at a later date?

When it comes to successfully marketing your Ag business, the goal isn’t to reach the greatest number of people. Rather, you want to reach people who are most likely to buy the products and services that you are selling.

E-newsletters are an important example of why the quality of clicks always trump the quantity of clicks. Many marketers feel that they are wasting their time on these types of newsletters because they don’t get a flood of interest after every issue. However, research has shown that e-newsletters are an extremely effective way to market a business. Why? Because the individuals who actually go to the trouble of subscribing to such newsletters do so because they are seriously considering purchasing from that company when the time is right.

Marketing your Ag-based business online requires a strategic approach and an ability to correctly measure success beyond counting clicks. The key is to be patient and realize that in the online marketing arena, slow and steady really does win the race.

It’s that time of year! When experts give their predictions for what will unfold in the New Year. And experts in the agricultural industry are ready with their predications for 2017.

Many in the agricultural industry are looking with cautious optimism to the New Year and there is hope that it will bring relief to farmers who continue to struggle with low commodity prices. This optimism stems from the fact that many analysts are predicting a recovery in commodity prices as corn and soybean supplies begin to decline and consumption around the world increases.

So what are some other important Ag trends to keep an eye on in 2017?

Trend #1: Slowing Machine Sales

Farmers will be much more likely to buy used equipment or try to get another year out of current equipment instead of making new purchases. Another factor in fewer machinery sales is elevated inventories for equipment sellers and a decrease in value for trade-ins. And while there are definite tax benefits to buying new, the reality is that farmers don’t have a whole lot to write off.

Trend #2: A Continued Interest in Precision Ag

Precision Ag will continue to pique the interest of farmers but price will be an issue. Farmers also are expected to continue to take an interest in free software categories but it is not known what will happen once these software offerings are no longer free.

Trend #3: Crop Protection will be a Hot Button Issue

Crop insurance will continue to be the most popular risk management tool that farmers employ. When it comes to weed-management issues, farmers are expected to face tremendous challenges with herbicide-resistant varieties. The expense of name-brand products to fight these weeds points to the use of generic products, however. Demand is expected to be light for insecticides and fungicides.

Trend #4: Decrease in Fertilizer Costs

Lower energy costs mean fertilizer prices should come down in 2017. Analysts predict that global supply and demand issues for all nutrient categories will continue pressure on prices, benefitting farmers.

Trend #5: Lower Fuel Costs

A decrease in fuel costs will offer relief to farmers and the Ag economy as a whole. Biodiesel and ethanol consumption also is expected to increase slightly.

If you own a farm, chances are there is a shop on that farm. And while crops and livestock may be the lifeblood of a farm, the shop is what keeps everything in working order.

Unfortunately, farm shops can be dangerous places. The tools and machinery contained in shops, when used incorrectly, can lead to injuries and, in rare cases, even death. During the cold, winter months, shops are especially busy as equipment repair and maintenance tasks are undertaken.

Not every shop accident can be foreseen or prevented. However, agricultural safety experts say that shop accidents and injuries can be drastically reduced by keeping the following in mind when working in the shop:

1. Good housekeeping goes a long way. Trips and falls are most often caused by clutter so make sure to keep walkways and work areas swept and free of debris. It also is important to clean up any spills right away.

2. Keep things well lit. Poor lighting makes it difficult to perform work safely and can cause eye strain. Make sure the entire shop is adequately lit and be sure to change burnt out bulbs promptly.

3. Save your back. Hydraulic lifts and hoists help to prevent back strain and injuries. Be sure to use this type of equipment when lifting heavy objects.

4. Protect yourself. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must in the shop. From eye goggles to heavy-duty work boots, failure to use the appropriate PPE can lead to injuries. Whether it is a mask to protect from filter dust or steel-toed boots to save your feet from falling objects, make sure you are always dressed for the job.

5. Get grounded. When electrical equipment isn’t properly grounded you risk electrical injury. Also be careful never to use frayed cords or cord less than 12-gauge. These type of cords may cost more but are well worth the investment as they are safer and help prevent motor damage.

6. Extinguish fire risks. Flammable and combustible materials should be stored away from heat sources and flammable liquids must be stored in covered containers. Always hang fire extinguishers near shop doors and check them annually. Proper ventilation also is essential.

Shop safety is a vital part of overall farm safety. If you are unsure if your shop is up to code, or need help installing safety features, it may be in your best interest to seek the advice of a safety expert. After all, whether you are working in the field or in the shop, safety must always be your first priority.

Gone are the days when farmers left their front doors unlocked and their barns unsecured. Today, farmers face a growing threat from thieves out to steal everything from tractors to crops to livestock.

While agricultural theft is nothing new, it is on the rise and farmers are doing all they can to protect themselves and their property from these criminals. Law enforcement is helping, too. Sheriff departments across the country have added rural crime units.

Of course the best offense is a good defense. Farmers are using a combination of tried-and-true crime fighting methods and modern technology to stop petty thieves as well as large-scale criminal operations looking to get away with thousands of dollars in farm equipment and much more. What follows is a list of the most effective ways to keep thieves at bay:

  • Post signs. Many a hiker has crossed farmland unaware that he or she is trespassing. In such cases, posting signs that read “private property” or “no trespassing” should do the trick.
  • Put up fences and other barriers. Signs aren’t always visible so you may want to put up fences, including barbed wire fences. You also should consider planting large trees or hedges to deter unwanted visitors. These natural barriers also help to obscure your land and property. Gate hinges are easily removed so should be fortified. Secure gates with chains and locks. Secure access roads with gates or cables stretched between posts cemented in the ground.
  • Lock it up. Weld metal covers over hasps to protect padlocks from being cut. Lock storage areas with padlocks, hasps and deadbolts.
  • Light it up. Make sure your farm is well lit at night and that it is lit in the right places, including near fuel tanks, grain bins, barns and outbuildings. Lights should be kept on automatic timers. Install motion sensor lighting around the perimeter of shops and other buildings.
  • Get a dog. A dog’s bark is a strong deterrent to would-be criminals.
  • Install video surveillances systems. Cameras, monitors and recorders should be integrated with devices like motion detectors that trigger alarms and activate video recorders. Sometimes just seeing a camera will be enough to scare away a thief.
  • Make your mark. The owner applied number (OAN) program was established by the FBI to return stolen property using a unique 10-digit number, identifying the state, county and owner. This number can be permanently stamped on tractors, tools and everything in between. As a result of this program, stolen equipment has been recovered from across the U.S. You also can fit equipment and other vehicles with security tags that relay a GPS signal to help locate the property (and the thieves who took it)! You should permanently tag your livestock and post signs to advertise this fact, as well.
  • Boost awareness. On large farms, make sure employees are always on the lookout for suspicious activity or unfamiliar faces. Also make sure any vandalism or property damage is reported immediately.

While agricultural theft shows no signs of slowing down, today’s farmers are fighting back. And the methods they are using are proving to be very effective!

The agriculture industry is experiencing a boom in the area of technology that is unlike any it has ever seen before. If you are an agri-business looking to entice your Ag customers into purchasing the latest technology—from crop sensors to drones to livestock biometrics—there is no doubt you know a lot about what you are selling.

Farmers and ranchers will no doubt benefit from such technology and are interested in learning as much about it as possible. One thing they are not interested in, however, is listening to you go over every technological detail. Instead, you may want to take some advice from Albert Einstein when he said, “Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.” In other words, as farmers continue to face a barrage of new and sometimes complicated technologies, it would be well for those marketing such technologies to keep their message straightforward and not throw in a lot of extraneous tech-speak.

This is not to say that the information should be oversimplified. The technology available to farmers today is remarkable and will allow farmers to be more productive. However, as a marketer, it is important to remember that your job is to give farmers what they want—the lowdown on how this new technology will help make their farming operation more efficient and more profitable. It also is important to remember that while farmers are well able to adapt to new technologies, they are not going to rush to buy new technologies without thinking long and hard about whether or not they will benefit from it.

The best way to market new technology to farmers is to illustrate these technological advances in terms that mean something to farmers. Stay away from conversations about complex algorithms and focus more on reducing water usage or increasing milk production, for example. Farmers want to know how new technology can be incorporated into their operations without causing major disruptions. And if there will be some disruptions, and chances are there will, be honest about it. However, frame those things in relation to the value farmers will gain.

If farmers sense that you are less interested in how a particular technology will benefit them and more interested in impressing them with your knowledge of all things tech, they will be anything but impressed. Instead, let them know you want to help them improve their operation. By doing so, everyone will benefit from the newest products in Ag tech.

Harsh winter weather can be dangerous no matter where you live. However, blizzards and severe conditions hit farmers and ranchers especially hard.

When you are miles from the nearest store or even a neighbor you need to make sure that you have everything on hand so that you, your family and your animals can survive extreme conditions. Dangerously cold temperature, strong winds and reduced visibility are just some of the conditions you may encounter. Further, heavy snow can lead to the collapse of roofs and power outages.

When it comes to surviving a blizzard, it is important not to be caught off guard. While weather predictions aren’t always spot on, it is unlikely that heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions will come out of the, well, clear blue sky.

Making sure you are well prepared for a blizzard means that you have what you need on hand so that you and your livestock can ride out the storm. It is important that you winterize your farmhouse and all outbuildings while the weather is still mild. You also should stock your home with extra blankets to keep you warm in the event that power goes out. Bottle water and food that does not need to be heated up before you eat it is essential. Finally, make sure you have a first-aid kit and that you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
Livestock farmers and ranchers need to be diligent (and most are) when preparing livestock before a blizzard hits. Unfortunately, many times a blizzard may occur that is much stronger than expected and the results can be catastrophic. The following steps should be taken in anticipation of a hard winter:

1. Make sure all livestock are in the best possible health. This will go a long way toward helping them survive weather emergencies.

2. Evaluate emergency hay reserves. Since cold weather increases animals’ energy needs, it is important that you are able to adjust their diet as needed during a long stretch of extremely low temperatures.

3. Service all feeding equipment to avoid breakdowns. This includes assessing fuel storage and supplies and testing generators and connections. It also includes making sure water heaters are in working order.

4. Maintain structural windbreaks.

5. Have adequate bedding. Not only does clean, dry bedding reduce stress on animals, when animals are wet their nutrition maintenance requirements increase.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember during blizzards (or any severe weather situation) is that you cannot take care of your family, animals or property if you don’t take care of yourself first.