Five Percent — the Difference Between Average and Elite for Baseball Players and Farmers

One more hit out of every 20 at bats — for a baseball player, that’s the difference between an elite .300 batting average and an only-okay .250 average. Over the length of a ballplayer’s career, that extra hit every five or so games will land a player in the Hall of Fame. It’s the difference between Derek Jeter and a lesser-known shortstop like former Blue Jay Cesar Izturis. One is going to Cooperstown, while the other has enjoyed a journeyman career playing for nine different teams.

To use that analogy in farming, five percent might seem like a small increment, but it can be the difference between thriving and surviving, says a farmer from Moosomin, Saskatchewan who will be speaking at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon this week.

Basing his talk on the findings of Dr. Danny Klinefelter of Texas A&M University, Kristjan Hebert (@kristjanhebert) of Hebert Grain Ventures discusses how small improvements can add up when it comes to a farm’s net income in the interview posted above.

“As farmers, we should focus on doing 20 things five percent better than average, rather than chasing the unicorn and trying to do one thing 100 percent better,” he explains. “If you multiply all those incremental improvements, it can have an immense change to your bottom line.”

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As a base case, Hebert says a five percent improvement in canola yield (from 40 to 42 bushels/acre), selling price (from $10 to $10.50) and cost of production (from $350 to $332.5/acre)) results in a more-than 100 percent increase in net return (from $50 to over $108 an acre.)

Finding an average to use as a benchmark for that five percent goal is important. Hebert recommends participating in a peer group with other farmers who are willing to share their farms’ numbers.

“If you have a group of 5 or 10 farmers that have enough geographical spread so that they can really be open and honest, you can push each other to all be better,” he says, noting each farm can bring its own  strengths to the bench-marking process. “My favourite situation is if I’m the dumbest guy in the room. Then there’s only one way to go.”

Hebert will be speaking at the Manitoba Canola Growers’ breakfast on Wednesday morning and in the FCC Theatre (at the south end of the Keystone Centre arena) at 2pm on Wednesday.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story used Bert Campaneris as an example of an “average” shortstop, when compared to Derek Jeter. Despite hitting a shade over .250, “Campy” was named an all-star six times and won three World Series. Izturis is a better fit for the analogy.

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