Hoarder or Frugal?

Finally giving up on my old jeans and stretched out Empire State Building hoodie as work clothes.  Actually going straight into the rubbish.  The hoodie was pricey since it was a souvenir, but the jeans, like most of my clothes, were purchased for a $1 a year ago from a local second hand shop.

They needed throwing out long ago, but i always justify keeping them a bit longer because they are great for fence repair.  That is to say, fence repair will destroy them even more, so why start with something new, right?

Oftentimes, i’m frugal to a fault, but a hoarder i am not – if i have no use for an item and it has possible value to someone else, i’m selling it or giving it away at earliest chance.

Nevertheless, the hole in the butt portion of the pants that i keep covered by pulling down my stretched out hoodie is just getting too large for comfort.  With a windchill of 4F and a foot of snow outside,  it will be a long time before any fence repair will take place.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

 

A Big Snow for Us!

Okay, i know, in many parts of the world, including the United States, a foot of snow is hardly an event.  But we haven’t had accumulation like this for at least a decade!   I’m not a fan of snow, but soft, loose snow like this is useful for subsoil moisture and filling ponds.

Thankfully, with managed grazing protocols in place, one can largely avoid having to get out into the weather and on the bad roads.  Today’s event is continuing, but the temps hovering around 30 degrees.  The snow ploughs have been doing the best they can to keep highways open.

Mostly livestock have no problems grazing through this snow, though heavy cover of ice on top of a foot of snow is actually a really bad situation, which we haven’t had for many, many years.

Below are some photos from years past since i’m not driving up to my farm today on slick roads just to take a photo of my cows.  In a few days, i’ll mosey on up in my JD Gator and check on them.  If they need more grazing, i’ll roll up the polywire and let them have access to the next paddock already set up.  In the next paddock are 5 big hay bales they will have access to as well as mostly grazing.  However, i don’t expect them to need a new break.

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3 Polywire and step in posts - stood thru wind and snow! - Copy
Cattle grazing through snow – strip grazing stockpiles forage
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Sheep bale grazing near a small patch of timber.
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Queen of the Log!  Sheep and horses handle the snow very well, since they will just paw through to the goodies.
Tannachton Farm - winter grazing 2013-small copywrited
This photo is not taken today, but illustrates how cows and calves alike have no problem grazing through deep snow.  They are not expecting to be fed.  

The only livestock we have that refuses the snow are our small flock of laying hens!

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Happy hens when i fed them inside their eggmobile.  

Be safe out there!!!

tauna

 

 

 

Richly Flavoured Oxtail

Were settling in for a long string of cold days, so time to catch up on those indoor jobs.  So today, i’m turning a couple packages of home raised grass finished frozen oxtail into delicious and versatile food.  After unwrapping and placing the thawed beef oxtail pieces in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 hours.  When tender, let cool then pull off the meat pieces.  The bones and extra fat i feed to our laying hens.  Chickens are omnivores, so it’s not a bad thing, but i never feed chicken back to chicken.  Chicken bones are fed to the dog.

Ideas for the meat: baleadas, quesadillas, roast beef salad, roast beef sandwich (using broth to make gravy), barbecued pulled beef, beef topping for fresh salad, or make vegetable beef soup with the broth or just plain broth if you or a loved one is under the weather.

Cheers!

tauna

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Check out that yellow fat!  Only from fully grass-finished animals.  Check out Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products

Setting Goals – Making Plans

Many of us have been caught up in discussions on social media which sometimes turn into nasty mud flinging and other nonsense.  Religious issues with many gurus often offers answers which are confusing and double-minded at best.  Livestock grazing, soil regeneration (regenerative is the goal; sustainable is out, and rightly so, since many of us have denigrated soil resources; sustaining that is ridiculous), wildlife enhancement, water quality, breed of cattle (or other livestock) are promoted with such fervor and worship to qualify as religions.

Yet, the reality of our fallen world and its natural processes, is so complex, that one size fits all does not work.  In the words of my friend Jim Gerrish, “it depends.”  And indeed it does.  Sure, there are some principles, ideas, and theories which are basic and we can learn from these.  However, the key must be to identify our own goals, resources, restrictions, and, as Allan Nation coined, ‘unfair advantages.’

You can search and find a myriad of experts ready to guide you on goal setting.  Read through them, many will help fertilize your own thoughts.   Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

  • Goals will involve family and friends- you don’t live in a bubble – be mindful and consider if your goals will push loved ones away.
  • Goals should consider the future – remember, you won’t always be 25 years old.  Work hard now,  but move into more investments.
  • Goals should include those things you want to do.  You may become successful not doing this, but there may be limited satisfaction.
  • Goals should be written down and in a place you can reference them.
  • Goals should be flexible – we cannot control the world – sometimes shifting a goal is necessary to be relevant.

Grazing livestock management schemes are confusing and challenging – like a lot of fields (excuse the pun).  When you throw in that one guru says do this and another says do the opposite, how is a newcomer to make decisions?  It is tough, for sure, but read a lot, go to a few conferences by tried and true teachers, for example  guys and gals who are or have been graziers themselves.  Networking with other producers will really help, but avoid meaningless quarrels.

Just like knowing the difference between economic (is the endeavor worth doing?) and financial (can i afford to do it?) decisions, knowing the difference between goal setting and planning is essential.  You may have great goals, but can actual plans be made to reach the goals?  And beyond that, you must ask yourself, am i motivated enough to see it through?  Don’t start a task if you don’t count the cost in advance.  These costs are beyond money – they include relationships which may be lost, declining health, spiritual or mental stress.

Change is inevitable, goals change, plans change, plans change because the goals change, goals change because of many, many factors, including age, time, priorities.  Don’t get bogged down with thinking you cannot change goals or plans, but keeping meaningful, timely, and accurate records is a must!

Happy Planning!

tauna

 

 

Too Many Farmers & Ranchers?

In these slow times made so by inclement weather (snow, cold, ice, wind, mud, rain), my energy level increases because i’m not working as physically hard.  These past couple years, too, i’ve begun going to our local YMCA at 5am to walk and lift weights for a couple hours.  All this contributes to a restless feeling that i’m not accomplishing all that i can.  My children, now grown, are good at reeling in my ambition and crazy ideas a bit, which is good because i have a natural tendency to get too many irons in the fire.

However, the perspective of age has tempered and honed those expansive ideas as either increasing work or increasing investment.  The latter is much more attractive to me now as my physical strength wanes.

All that shared to relate an irony of agriculture in the United States.  Although, some would cry ‘save the family farm’ few actually have a real look at what the family farm is.  Are we dooming the modern family farm by idolizing the farms of the past?  or those small holdings in distant lands?  The reality is that farming/ranching has never been financial lucrative in the sense of ‘getting rich.’  Margins are slim, startup is pretty much insurmountable now, and i never thought i’d say it out loud, but i fear there are too many farmers/ranchers in the United States.  That is to say, that despite the average age of farmers is 58 or 59, farming of the agrarian sort (actually farming/ranching – not some related field) is more competitive than ever!  Outside investors and to an even greater degree, neighbouring prudent and successful farmers with disposable income bid up land to amounts beyond production value which keeps new farmers from entering.  Oh, yes, i know that mantra is that you don’t have to own land to start in farming, that is absolutely true, but at least here in north Missouri, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything to rent – pasture or crop land.  And, to be honest, most of the land in our county is not crop land, yet it’s been under the plough for decades and much has washed down the creek.

How did this happen?  Technology, bigger and better equipment, government support programs, and the never ending pressure to produce food cheaply.  All these contribute to fewer farmers necessary to farm the massive number of acres to produce crops with slimmer and slimmer profit margins.  Often, the only profit is the check collected from the federal government (you, the taxpayer).  But don’t blame the producer!  It’s just our system.

For some time now, interest rates on saved income has been lower than the inflation rate, resulting in outside investors hoping to get some return on their money, whereas farmers buy land to spread out the equipment costs.  Consider that for a row cropper here, land to purchase (it’s a rarity to find) will cost upwards of $4000/acre. (a small parcel just sold in the county next to us for $8000/acre!)

Thank A Farmer Kitchen Farms wheat harvest in Missouri by Finney Aerial Photo

There are a few farms asking less than that, but most are worn out (soil loss, erosion, and fertility may take decades of proper farming/ranching to reverse or restore) and should never have been cropped in the first place (steep slope, poor production indicators, etc).  Yet, the asking price is out of reach for anyone wanting to raise livestock.  One such farm near me would take at least $400/acre up front cost to restore it to even marginal pasture.  Add that to the asking price, and already it’s over $3500/acre! (Racks & Tracks listing)

So, is land more expensive now than in the past?  Consider my property just across the road from the above listing and of similar topography.

1857 – $1.83/acre – Today’s dollars = $53.19/acre

1870 – $13.41/acre – Today’s dollars = $258.87 (this buyer lost the farm)

1872 – $3.90/acre – Today’s dollars = $80.84/acre  (appraised value was $64.67/acre)

1875 – $4.79/acre – Today’s dollars = $110.12/acre

then several surveys and set aside for Morris Chapel Church and cemetery – finally back together in 1945

1945 – $11.97/acre – today’s dollars = $168.17/acre

1949 – $26.95/acre – Today’s dollars = $286.36

1966 – $92.81/acre – today’s dollars = $724.39*

2018 – $3100/acre – today’s dollars = $3100/acre (asking price of farm across the road)

Working backwards – what would a $3000/acre farm bring in 1949?  $282.34

*1966 is when my grandparents purchased the farm, it shows, too, another reason land owners won’t sell property – basis.  Since this farm was gifted to me, the basis from 1966 remains in place.  In other words, if i sold the land for $2100/acre, capital gains tax would be paid on the difference between $92.81 and $2100.  This tax could be as much as 23.8%!  However, if i die and the land passes to my heirs, it can be appraised and establish a new basis.

Tenants compete for acres by bidding up rental fees because of their massive investment in machinery.  Absentee farmers and investors generally accept the highest rent bid (which is usually the one that will least take care of the soil) and hope the fertility and productivity outlives them, then the property will sell.

Change comes one funeral at a time.

Rather than me stumbling about putting together numbers, here’s a great article written in 2017 with sample startup costs for someone wanting to start and make a living farming.

Cheers!

tauna

HOW MUCH $ DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A FARMER?

THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO GO FROM ZERO MONEY TO A FARMER.
I was talking with a couple of farmers recently, discussing the barriers to entry for new farmers. Some numbers were thrown out as to how much capital it would take for a young man or woman to get started into farming.“$1 million, $2 million, more” were amounts bandied about. This made me curious, so I decided to drill down on the actual capital requirement.

First of all, we need to decide what kind of farmer we are talking about here. For this article, I’m assuming someone with no family farm who wants to become a full-time grain farmer in Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana.

The first thing a budding farmer might do is get a degree in agriculture, since he/she would not have learned farming on the family farm. This will cost somewhere between $20,000 and $120,000, depending on where he/she goes and what scholarships are available. The average of those two numbers is $70,000, which will require student loan debt for most young people. Of course, a degree is not required, but it might come in handy for convincing banks to loan money or landlords to lease cropland.

The equipment requirement could be an extensive discussion; however, I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. One could buy all new machines, but to get started, let’s assume the acquisition of decent used equipment – about 5 to 10 years old.

The basic list would include: a combine with corn head and grain platform for $175,000; a big tractor for plowing and planting at 125K; a grain truck for 60K; a planter that runs about 75K; a grain drill for 40K; a disk at around 30K; a chisel-plow for 30K; a field cultivator at 25K; a pull-type sprayer costs 35K; a grain dryer is 30K; a utility tractor for brush-hogging/ditching/grading at 35K; a grain cart for 15K; a trailer at around 15K; an ATV for 10K; and a full complement of tools costs 15K.

The building requirement probably includes a couple of metal buildings ($200,000) and at least a few grain storage bins to hold 75,000 bushels, about $75,000. There is no hard-and-fast land requirement. However, the farmers I spoke with said that someone would need at least 500 owned acres and 1,000 leased acres to make a living.

The quality of the land certainly affects those numbers. For this article, let’s assume 150-plus corn bushel-per-acre land for about $7,500 an acre. If you bought 500 acres as a base of operations, the total land cost would be $3,750,000.

Add it all up, and we arrive at $5,157,500. Wow! That’s a big number, and it’s out of reach for most young entrepreneurs.

Because of the cost of land and equipment today, some farmers are concerned about who will be able to follow them into the industry. How will they fund the enterprise, even with family land and equipment?

Because of greater access to capital, more corporate farms are likely.

The problem is not just start-up capital but also surviving drought years and low commodity prices until they turn around. Unfortunately, even though you are already a biologist, engineer, equipment operator, accountant, carpenter, and mechanic, you have to become an expert financier, as well, to get into farming and stay there.

Written by Shawn Williamson, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) MBA in Missouri and Illinois. This article is designed to be a commentary on the amount of capital required for a row-crop farm in the Midwest. It is not meant to be a guide on how to get started in farming. 

 

Regenerative Farming

One of the best educational conferences, Missouri Livestock Symposium, in the state of Missouri, with an outstanding lineup of speakers every year is free to attend and a free lunch sweetens the pot.  But all that aside, it is an excellent opportunity for farmers/ranchers/beekeepers/horse owners/stock dog enthusiasts to learn, not only from ‘experts’ but mostly from each other.  Like most industry, farmers learning and networking with other farmers often results in more improvement.

Of the many takeaways from the symposium was a brochure that hubby, Allen, picked up from the ATTRA-NCAT booth on “Building Healthy Pasture Soils.”  While the bullet points they make have been known for millennia, it doesn’t hurt to revisit them to see if a return to the old ways will be profitable and regenerative for today’s farming.   The answer is already a resounding ‘yes’ for the hand’s on land owner, but is debatable (short term anyway) for the renter or absentee land owner.  As my son’s fiance pointed out, it takes at least 4 years of regenerative farming practices to turn that soil health around.  Renters will not want to invest in a long term fertility strategy; absentee landowners are typically only interested in immediate returns in the form of annual cash rent.

Excerpt from article:

Strategies for Building Healthy Soils
Let’s consider the agricultural practices that help build healthy soil. In essence, we want to increase aggregation, contribute soil organic matter, increase biodiversity, buffer soil temperature, and minimize soil compaction and disturbance. Sounds like a lot, right?

Well, not really, if we break them down into six basic principles. Let’s take a quick look at the principles that will define our soil management practices:

  1. Minimizing tillage preserves soil structure, encourages aggregation, and keeps soil carbon in the soil profile where it belongs. Tillage brings a flush of oxygen into the soil that spurs microbes into a feeding frenzy on carbon molecules, resulting in CO2 release. We reduce tillage through the use of perennial pasture and minimum or no-till of cover crops.
  2. Maintaining living roots in the soil for as much of the year as possible feeds soil microorganisms all year.
  3. Also, by maintaining living roots and leaving grazing residual, we are covering the soil all year, forming an “armor” to protect it from loss of moisture and nutrients.
  4. Maintaining species diversity is achieved with cover crop mixes and the use of diverse perennial-pasture mixes. Try to incorporate warm- season and cool-season plants, both grasses and broadleaf plants, in the same fields.
  5. Managing grazing is accomplished by planning for an appropriate grazing-recovery period on your paddocks, keeping in mind that plants need various recovery periods depending on the species, the time of year, and the soil moisture content. Overgrazing (not allowing adequate recovery) reduces root mass, photosynthesis, and the amount of carbon sequestered into the soil, decreasing soil life. Proper grazing builds soil.
  6. Finally, utilizing animal impact and grazing impact provides nutrient cycling in pastures, and contributes to soil organic matter. Additionally, the grazing action on forage plants encourages root growth and root exudation of plant sugars that feed soil microorganisms.

For livestock producers, this boils down to a combination of perennial pasture, cover crops in rotation on annual fields, and good grazing management. These simple concepts are described by ranchers Allen Williams, Gabe Brown, and Neil Dennis in a short video on how grazing management and cover crops can regenerate soils. View the video Soil Carbon Cowboys to get their take on soil health practices.

Managing means planning AND implementing.  All the planning in the world will not enact change or improvement; action and motivation drives profitability and regeneration.  If you are not motivated, not able to get things done in a timely manner, then get someone to come alongside you and map out a plan – yet YOU are the one to ‘git ‘er done.  Too many times, i see people with excellent plans stymied by their inability to get out of the chair and off the paper – i call that analysis paralysis.  Don’t be a victim!

Cheers and happy farming!

tauna

 

Pregnancy Check – 2018

Pregnancy check and calf vaccinations for fall 2018 are recorded history.  October 25, 2018 held on to become a pretty nice day.  Veterinarian was hour and half late, but with the changes i’d made in the corral which made it more user friendly, we still managed to finish before dark.  The changes shaved at least an hour off working time.

Results of preg check were far more favorable than i could have ever expected given the very hot, dry, droughty, short grass conditions.

135 cows and heifers were checked.

  • Open/Bred
  • 2/39 of the 2 year olds – 95% bred
  • 3/19 of the 3 years olds – 84% bred
  • 2/15 of the 4 year olds – 87% bred *
  • 0/1 of the 5 year olds – 100% bred
  • 0/6 of the 6 year olds – 100% bred
  • 0/20 of the 7 year olds – 100% bred
  • 1/21 of the 8 year olds – 95% bred
  • 2/8 of the 9 year olds – 75% bred
  • 0/1 of the 10 year olds – 100% bred
  • 0/1 of the 11 year olds – 100% bred
  • 0/1 of the 12 year olds – 100% bred
  • 0/3 of the 13 year olds – 100% bred

Totals – 10/135  = 7.4% open or 92.8% bred

THRILLED with this result even had there not been a drought and i hadn’t changed the breeding season.

Since i was going to Kenya this summer and because i cannot be out past the 15th of August to move the bulls away from the cows (because of severe ragweed allergy), i changed the breeding season from 17 July to 7 July and lopped off 12 days on the end.  In other words, last year breeding season was 17 july – 20 September, but this year is 6 July – 19 August.  Breeding season went from 65 days to 45 days.

According to gestation tables, this puts the first calves arriving April 14th and the last ones on May 28.  I do not like to start calving so early, but since the Corriente cows give such rich milk and combine with heat, humidity, and toxic endophyte fescue of late spring, it was a disaster the two years i calved them out in the mid-May to end of June time frame. (30% calf death loss due to scours despite major treatment).  Add in my allergies, i made the decision for my present season.  We can get some super nasty weather, however, in April, so time will tell.

Measuring for improvement

Cheers

tauna

*(these two young cows raised the biggest calves – not sustainable for my operation)

 

 

 

Faith, Family, Farm

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