One of the many challenges of running a farm is being aware of the potential unintended consequences before you make a decision.
Every decision you make is a trade off for something else - rarely do you get a free hit or hit a home run without some form of reaction.
At school I learned for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and I have spent the rest of my life watching that unfold.
The use of sprays on-farm reduces target weeds but in doing so can take out beneficial pests.
Recently I asked my farmer cousin what were the three main weeds he was managing 20 years ago.
Brome grass, wild radish and capeweed were the three he came up with.
I then asked him what were the three present day weeds he was most challenged by and it was fleabane, ryegrass and still wild radish.
With wild radish being hard seeded and still on the radar he commented that any "hiccup" in control meant that one year's seed was 10 years of weeds. So, it would appear that you never get on top of weeds. If you do, they are immediately replaced by others.
Spray drift is another example of how you can be doing an excellent job of controlling your weeds, but unintended spray drift could be damaging a neighbouring vineyard.
Buying-in fodder is any case in point where the much-needed nutrition can be so beneficial to stock, but the unintended consequence is that you have bought in weed seeds from other districts.
One of my former clients would always feed his stock in the same area of the paddock and he would monitor that area for the emergence of an unwanted species so he could act early.
How often in your life have you set out to help someone and things have gone pear-shaped in the process leaving you wishing you had never become involved?
Life in general is about taking risks, the higher the risk the higher the reward.
There is no such thing as low risk, high reward, so to make progress we must take risk. In taking that risk we must be best prepared for the unintended consequences that can be associated.
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For farmers the two biggest risks are usually the climate and prices received - areas where most have no control, so management needs to consider these first and foremost in decision making. The consequences of not doing so can be the difference between success and failure.
One of the best strategies in dealing with risk is to make sure you thoroughly research anything new that you are about to implement.
The innovators and early adopters have quite often paid the price of failure in their pursuit of something better, so you need to engage with them if you can.
The present pandemic is another example of the decisions made having both good and bad unintended consequences.
It is not what happens to us in life, it is how we play the cards we are dealt that matters.
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