“The Early Bird Catches the Worm, But the Second Mouse Gets the Cheese…….”

This is an old saying and well known to many. Of course, one is meant to feel sorry for the first mouse. But it can also be true of our businesses and those who innovate. There are many tales of inventors who were just too far ahead of time and came up with ideas that seemed so far-fetched or designs that were so weird that no one bought. So being too early with an idea can be very damaging to your bank balance. Many early tractor designs failed to make a profit and more recently, remember the Sinclair C5 little car?

With more of a dairy bias, I remember doing a project when I was at Seale Hayne College (in 1981, before you ask…..) on a redundant and failed rotary milking parlour on a failed 300 cow dairy unit. I think it had been installed in around 1965 – well before the technology to make such a construction was robust enough to work well and to be profitable.

It was just too early, and the teething problems had not been ironed out in the prototypes. Nowadays of course, there are lots of rotary parlours installed worldwide, that work well and efficiently. That farmer was just too early.

“……..The Second Mouse Should Not Become the First Mouse on the Next Day”

Similarly, but diametrically opposite, I recently had a client who insisted that it was right to irrigate grass for dairy cows – in Cheshire. This is because the grass dries out in a drought (who knew?). It took a lot of effort to persuade him that, even though he may grow more grass, there is no way that it would be economic. I persuaded him out of it in two ways: firstly, did he know of any other dairy farmer nearby who was irrigating grass now, or who had ever done it successfully? No. Secondly, would the bank support him with the investment required? No. Job done.

So, what are the lessons to be learned from these tales? I think there are at least three:

1. Don’t try to do something radical that no-one (or very few people) has done before – unless you are able to afford failure.
2. Don’t try to do something in your part of the world (and in your industry) that may work well elsewhere, but which doesn’t often (ever?) work in your area.
3. Before you do anything new on your farm or business, take advice from thoughtful and trusted advisors, both professional and from relevant trades.

Contact Charles at charlesholt@fcgagric.com or your local FCG Office, for an independent unbiased view on your ideas that you wish to implement on your farm.

Posted in Business Management, Dairy & Forage, Lincoln.