Understanding a camshaft is one of the great mysteries of how an engine operates. At first glance, it just appears to be what its nickname, “Bump Stick,” implies; a metal rod with bumps on it. But when you delve into the basic theory of polynomial equations, jerk rate, acceleration, and ramp design, there is much more going on than meets the eye.

The area on the camshaft lobe where the valve lifter changes direction is identified as the inflection point. From then on, the lifter is either riding the lobe up toward the nose or down toward the camshaft’s base circle. Many incorrectly identify the sides of the lobe as the acceleration and deceleration ramp. This is false since the lifter accelerates from zero velocity when exiting the nose or base circle.

Just as the valve lifter changes direction at the inflection point, so must your thought process on the farm if you are to grow. It is very easy (it happens to most of us if we are truthful) to lose your way when farming, doing things the same every year.

For your operation to succeed, every aspect of it must be under constant review. If you do not do this, it would be like applying the same fertility plan regardless of the crop you raise and without a soil test. In the same manner that the valve lifter changes direction, so must some aspects of your operation.

I am using a valve lifter acting on the lobe of a camshaft as a metaphor, even though that motion is repeated countless times as an engine is running and is confined to a dedicated pathway.

The decisions on a farm cannot be likened to the rotation of a camshaft, but just as the lifter is forced to dwell first and then change course, so must we adjust to the many dynamics of our business if we want to remain profitable in the ever-changing environment.

One of your considerations should be rethinking the use of a diesel engine for some applications in your operation. The two major obstacles against a diesel are the upfront cost and the complexity of the emissions control system.

Order a diesel in a pick-up truck, and you just added around $10,000.00 to the price of its gasoline counterpart. Would that money be spent better elsewhere on the farm? In most instances, I believe so. I agree that diesel delivers a considerable amount of torque over a gasoline engine; torque is what moves the load. We all “buy” horsepower but “drive” torque. A gas engine can carry the load also. Today’s spark ignition engines have become more powerful. They are superior in performance compared to the diesels from only a few years back.

Another area to reconsider when profit margins are thin is to look at all expenditures through the microscope of the yield of your major crop. In the past, a significant purchase was referenced in dollars, and I suggest looking at it in bushels, bales, or 100-weight.

For example, you and your wife are considering the purchase of a state-of-the-art television set for $2,000.00, even though there is nothing wrong with your current one. The purchase may not even come on your radar before instituting an inflection point in your thought process.

If you apply farm production to the purchase, say milk for a dairy operation, and you are receiving $16/CWT, your cows need to produce 12,500 pounds of milk for that TV. When viewed in this light, you may quickly conclude that your old TV is more than good enough.

Inflection point thinking should be applied to expanding your education on every aspect of your operation, especially the machinery.

It never ceases to amaze me how a ridiculous image or video can be posted on social media, and it quickly receives thousands of views and retweets or the equivalent. Yet, at the same time, something of consequence that has value in profiting your operation garners little activity.

A casual observer would conclude that the agricultural community is more interested in an image of a cow relieving itself than learning about their business… and they would be correct.

As an industry, we also need to change the direction of our thinking when attending educational meetings and workshops, applying what is relevant to our farm or ranch. Statistically, those sitting in the audience of any seminar return home and apply little to nothing discussed. Why invest your time and money to attend a seminar and do nothing with it? Do you just want the free lunch? That makes no sense.

The market conditions of any business need, without a doubt, to be understood and taken under consideration for all decisions on the farm. But in the same manner that the base saturation values on a soil test need to be examined since they add up to 100%, our thinking must do the same.

Suppose the calcium/magnesium ratio is out of balance. In that case, it may not be that you need more calcium but rather to wash some of the magnesium out. A different approach than one may first believe is often required.

There is no doubt that we are in interesting and conflicting times in agriculture. Unfortunately, I think many of us make matters worse than they need to be since we do not modify our business’s thought process and approach.

We fixate on crop prices and ignore the changes we can make to succeed at the current price point. Instead, market pricing should be an essential part of your business decisions. Still, if it becomes your singular focus, your concern will often be your obstacle to success.

Take a lesson from the camshaft and examine when the valve lifter of your business needs to reach the inflection point and change direction… if only temporarily.