If, by purchasing hay, i can increase the number of employees (cows) which do not need health insurance, workman’s compensation, employee benefits, bonuses, etc and they seldom complain about the work (grazing and raising babies) they enjoy, and in so doing, also increase the soil quality by feeding microbes (making those employees happy as well), and would decrease my actual labor costs and time, wouldn’t this be a good thing?
I’m not sure!
There are many qualified experts who discourage the hay habit – and i completely agree if i had to own and operate the very expensive equipment and time needed to bale hay, which would be on my own property, thereby simply moving nutrients from one point to another and not increasing – so, am i missing a very big point?
Winter is basically 180 days in north Missouri, so if hay is the sole feed source, the amount would figure as 180 days times 30# per cow/calf pair= 5400#, allowing some ‘waste,’ and unusually harsh weather, it would be reasonable and wise to round up to 6000#. If it cost me 5 cents per pound delivered and unloaded at my farm, this is $300 per cow/calf unit for winter feed (180 days), the rest of the year would be 2 acres per cow/calf at the rate $55 per acre rent or $110 per annum. Total grass/hay feed costs total $410 per cow/calf unit. It would actually add about 12 hours of my labor to position the bales for bale grazing. So adding another $20 per cow/calf for $430
Given that info, my farm, depending on weather, could accommodate 200 pairs, figuring 2% death loss of calves to various reasons would result in 196 calves to sell. If i continue with what i can do and graze only through the winter (relying on fall rain to grow stockpile), then there are 98 calves to sell. So, to compare:
Calves to sell: 196 times 400 lbs times 1.80/lb = $141,120 – $86,000 = $55,120
Calves to sell: 98 times 400 lbs times 1.80/lb = $70,560 – $22,000 = $48,560
BUT, soil quality is not increased (unless mob grazing is implemented), and certainly not as fast, Compared to renting more acres, fence and water maintenance does not increase.
What is the right answer!!!!????
There is time for more reading, listening, studying, and sharpening the pencil. In the meantime, first week of April , calves will be weaned, then second vaccinations on weaned calves, by 25 April cows will begin calving for 45 days, soil sampling select paddocks, then i plan to implement UHGD (aka mob grazing).
Should be enjoying fresh pullet sized eggs in about 3 months.
From delivery of chicks to first pullet eggs is typically about 6 months.
25 female chicks (26 actually, but 2 were roosters and one hen is deformed) – $100
Starter feed – 3 bags each 30 lbs at $90
Mixed feed about 1 gallon (or 4 lbs) per day: $2.20 per day times 120 days – $396
Labor for 180 days varies, but averages about 20 minutes a day at $15/hr – $900
So before 25 hens are even laying or producing anything at all, your backyard laying hen project has invested a total of $1486. That’s a lot of eggs you could have bought at $4/dozen. But now that they are laying, there should be about 1 1/2 years of good laying, but of course the feed and labor expenses continue. Labor will slightly increase because I’ll be moving the chicken tractor to fresh grass everyday and collecting, sorting, washing (if needed), and packaging the eggs EVERYDAY.
Total costs (not including building the brooder and chicken tractor): $1486
So figuring forward:
Feed for 1.5 years (540 days @ $2.20) – $1188
Labor at $15/hr for 30 minutes a day – $2025
Egg cartons if you buy them are at least 50 cents (281 cartons) each: $140
Assuming a lay rate of 1 egg per two days (this is an average including a harsh winter where costs will continue but few eggs will be laid) per hen (times 25 hens) – 3375 eggs
(270 days/2 = 135 times 25 hens – 3375 eggs)
Total costs during laying period of 1 1/2 years – $3353
Final costs of raising 25 chicks to laying age plus production for 1 1/2 years: $4839
Cost per potential dozen (281 dozens): $17.22
Value of spent hens is negated completely by labor costs associated with butchering.
All this assuming that in one night along any part of this route, a fox, raccoon, neighbour’s dog or coyote doesn’t come in an annihilate all your hens.
Now winter laying could be increased somewhat by keeping heat and light on the hens.
Certainly, i could be the typical farmer and say ‘well….if i don’t count my time….but that would be unfair, right? He’s taken ALL the risk, done all the labor, built all the infrastructure, and cared for them every single day. If i removed all the labor costs from the scenario, cost per dozen is $6.63/dozen.
Why am i doing this? good question. it’s ridiculous actually, except i cannot buy eggs from hens on pasture being fed non-gmo and mostly organic grains in our part of the world and they do taste better and have more nutrients (according to various tests).
These are real costs to produce eggs from hens on pasture, not inflated or overpriced. Lowering production costs is easy – stacked cages with 67 to 76 square inches of usable space per hen being fed well balanced diet of conventional grains and no chance of being eaten by predators. Automated egg sorting, washing, and packaging. Find employees who will work for minimum wage or less in dusty conditions. Tightly confined conditions allows for fewer employees. Hens will be allowed to lay for less than a year (until first moult) and then replaced to maintain high production year round. This part can also be done on pasture raised as well and would be a good idea. Production drops considerably after that first moult, so replacing them with younger, higher producing hens would reduce costs a little.
Smart farmers will survive the challenges that arise in 2016. Just as they’ve done in the past, they’ll reassess their spending and recognize cash is king. I also recommend the following:
Understand true cost of production. Account for every dollar. It’s how you’ll quantify whether you’re headed for profit, loss, or breakeven. Don’t overlook your true living expenses, including what you set aside for college and retirement. “Tis the year for living frugally.
Scrutinize every line item in your budget. It’s the only way you can stop haemorrhaging cash and become leaner. Is there a way to cut your overall costs? I challenge you to cut all expenses by 1%. It might seem small, but I’ve witnessed this exercise lead to six-figure savings. Question input costs and negotiate with suppliers.
Be sure to liquidate all non-productive assets. You can generate thousands of dollars by selling losers.
Stay in contact with your lender. They realise down cycles occur. The last thing you want to do in tough times is cut them off.
My comments: Just because an asset is no longer working in your operation, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ‘loser’ for everyone. Sometimes our goals change and someone else needs exactly what we no longer need. Of course, if the asset is junk, be sure to sell it that way.