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salatin chickens net profit per bird: $2.97

 
Brad Davies
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Location: Clarkston, MI
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Nice resource!

Bookmarked that one until I have some more time to go through it. Got to love someone who keeps diligent records and posts the data for others to see.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It is nearly impossible to "make money" on chickens. They did better than many.

Our neighbors used to do it because their dairy customers begged for it. They ran the numbers and figured they needed $50 per bird to make them worth the time vs. the other things they could be doing. They still do organic eggs (Salatin style) but no more chickens or turkeys. Now they increased their milking herd and make cheese. They turn that excess spring milk into $$$$$$ for cheeses ready for the holidays.
 
paul wheaton
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I like the idea that with paddock shift you will cut those feed costs by about 80%
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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paul wheaton wrote:I like the idea that with paddock shift you will cut those feed costs by about 80%


I don't think that just changing to a paddock shift would make such a difference in this instance. Cornish Cross chickens are notorious for not being terribly interested in foraging. they don't even particularly like to walk. so switching breeds might be required to reduce feed costs substantially.

at that point, you'll have to take into account that the breeds that do forage better also take longer to reach market size. it can be the difference between a six to eight week grow out, and a ten to twelve week grow out. that's potentially twice as long. that would eat into the feed savings substantially.

I'm certainly in favor of better management practices like paddock shifting, because when it all the advantages are taken into account, it's a much better arrangement. but I don't think it's quite such an immediate or obvious payback.
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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We do 50 cornish cross bird for ourselves and our neighbor does several thousand for sale following Joel Salatin's method. Both of our results are different from this referred article. First off, we were paying less per bag of feed than the data shown and this was for 100 pound bags rather than for 50 pound bags, so less than half the cost for feed. The neighbor shared with us his source for feed, a local amish farm that grows its own non GMO corn and roasts local soy beans for the feed. As the birds grow the feed can be cut down with ground corn to also help with feed costs. With just moving our one pen of birds daily I had less than 15 minutes a day in move, feeding and watering. Our birds dress out at 5.5 - 6.5 pounds. I do not like to crowd as many bird per pen as some people do and I think that that helps. I found that the birds were eager to graze each morning at the pen moves and preferred the fresh grass and not eating the feed until they had their fill of grass and what ever they found. This year I will do a pen move twice a day to encourage more grazing. moving the pen only takes about 2 minutes so the second move I will do when I go out to move the steers in the late afternoon. As far as the processing, the neighbor has a plucker and scalder along with all the other needed facilities and can do 50 birds an hour. I will be helping him mount this equipment of a trailer so that we can offer mobil processing to area raisers. Even, when we hand pluck and process our own birds we could do 25 or more birds in a day, with the plucking being the most time involved.
kent
 
Devon Olsen
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Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Real eye opener. $7 and change per hour.

Went to a veggie stand the other day and bought several pounds of tomatoes, peaches, cukes, onions and beans. Split my purchase between the two vendors so they could each make a buck. $12 to one and $8 to the other.

The whole time I'm thinking how much I have invested in the tomatoes, beans, onion etc that I am growing here at home. I wouldn't sell it for that. But they don't have much choice - if they charge what thier time is worth people will just go down the street to the IGA or Walmart.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:if they charge what thier time is worth people will just go down the street to the IGA or Walmart.


I think the business-booster answer to that problem would be "marketing." If those growers were better salesmen, they could get more for their produce.
 
wayne stephen
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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So to earn $ 25,000 0n 20 acres in 6months that would be over 8000 birds to market! The only way I see this model being effective is for the buying public to want the higher quality and not McNuggets everyday. Omnivores Dillema . We raise our own and pay more than Wally World of course , but is worth it.If we have to , we buy from a freind doing the same and we eat only a few a month. We make meatless meals in between and they are excellent too. We buy grass finished beef , someday we will raise a steer of our own. It is hard to argue with a 3 dollar chicken wrapped in plastic , Although this 2.97 is more than Purdue made on theirs. And way more than the mortgaged to the hilt chicken house owner made. So all in all it is very effective as part of an intergrated system.
 
Ute Chook
Posts: 39
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tel jetson wrote:
paul wheaton wrote:I like the idea that with paddock shift you will cut those feed costs by about 80%


I don't think that just changing to a paddock shift would make such a difference in this instance. Cornish Cross chickens are notorious for not being terribly interested in foraging. they don't even particularly like to walk. so switching breeds might be required to reduce feed costs substantially.

...

I'm certainly in favor of better management practices like paddock shifting, because when it all the advantages are taken into account, it's a much better arrangement. but I don't think it's quite such an immediate or obvious payback.


Second that. Chickens are monogastrics, not ruminants, and while grass/greenfeeds are important to their health (vitamins, immune system) and welfare and lead to better, tastier and healthier meat and eggs, grass digestibility for chickens is limited.

Some interesting data can be found in this paper: Buchanan et al. (2007) Nutrient Composition and Digestibility of Organic Broiler Diets and Pasture Forages. http://japr.fass.org/content/16/1/13.full#ref-6 (full paper)

Some quotes:
Organic poultry have access to pasture [3], a nutrient source that has not been fully evaluated for use in poultry. Laying hens and broiler chickens given access to pasture may meet various nutrient needs through foraging.

Buckner et al. [4, 5] found that giving laying hens access to early-growth Kentucky bluegrass resulted in a 20% reduction in feed consumption and increased egg production compared with hens raised in confinement. Additionally, hens reared on alfalfa or Ladino clover need considerably less feed protein than confined hens [1]. High-quality alfalfa hay can supply carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin E [1]. Feed having only 11 to 12% protein* has been shown to be adequate for hens on good pasture [6]. Additionally, Moritz et al. [7] reported that organically reared Ross broilers may overcome growth impairments associated with Met deficiency through foraging.

Poultry may obtain small amounts of energy from pasture forage (285 to 542 kcal/kg).**

Poultry have the ability to utilize amino acids found in forage. True amino acid digestibility values for Met, Lys, and Thr were approximately 88, 79, and 84%, respectively.


* e.g. wheat or good quality oats. Proprietary poultry feed would have about 16% protein.
** A laying hen needs about 1.3-1.5 MJ/day = c. 358 kcal. This is an industry figure for regulated environments. A chicken running around outside, especially during colder periods of the year, is likely to need significantly more than that for temperature regulation. Dito for fast-growing broilers.
But a chicken can not physiologically (crop size) eat 1 kg of grass a day.

tel jetson wrote:
at that point, you'll have to take into account that the breeds that do forage better also take longer to reach market size. it can be the difference between a six to eight week grow out, and a ten to twelve week grow out. that's potentially twice as long. that would eat into the feed savings substantially.


True, and that's for broiler hybrids. Dual-purpose take even longer still. I rear about 20 males of Barnevelders, Orpingtons and crosses of those breeds for the table each year and they take 20-26 week to reach 4.5 lb slaughter weight (cleaned out). First crosses are the quickest. Organic feed is very expensive here and with detailed record-keeping I have found that it costs me at least 13 Euro (c. $16) just in feed to rear dual-purpose roosters to table weight, never mind housing, electric fences, and the work involved in rearing and butchering them. I do it because with breeding you end up with surplus males, because I like eating truly tasty organic chicken but economic it is not, no matter how much they forage outside (in a subtropical or tropical climate with year-round abundant growth the economics may of course be different).

Another interesting quote on this from http://www.lionsgrip.com/pastured.html (CHICKEN FEED: Grass-Fed Chickens & Pastured Poultry)
C. ARE THERE ANY FEED SAVINGS WHEN POULTRY ARE ALLOWED TO GRAZE?
Experience of many pasture poultry producers is that 3.5 to 4 pounds of feed are required for each 1 pound of gain. Conventional poultry requires about 2 pounds of feed to get 1 pound of gain. It is entirely possible that pasture poultry requires up to twice the amount of feed as confined poultry.


So it's not all that simple...

Of course paddock shift is likely to improve your follow-on grass or hay crop (by fertilizing the grassland), combat gastro-intestinal problems in other livestock (by eating intermediate hosts such as slugs, snails and fly larvae etc.) so that's something valuable that reductionist economic balance-sheets tend to overlook. But putting the birds out to pasture does not mean you can only give them 1/5th of the normal ration.
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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It just goes to show that stacking is mandatory. Salatin uses chickens after cows, both for chicken meat but also for pasture improvement including quicker turn around time on paddocks and increased soil production. He believes that he's added 12-24 inches of topsoil to his farm over the last 50 years. The system he's directed can be profitable, but only if you can find local sources for feed. Also he doesn't buy organic feed, just local where he knows the grower and knows what goes into the production.
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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We raised 200 Redbro chickens with a very different set of variables, but the end result was almost identical. Our goal was to raise the birds in the most idyllic way possible, yet also at a large enough scale to generate useable numbers.

We really liked the method and basic plan at this website http://www.free-rangepoultry.com/, but with the chicken characteristics from this page http://www.poultrylabelrouge.com/014_differentes_volailles_poulet.php

It seemed to offer good marketing opportunities, minimal labor, and hopefully the best chicken possible.

This is the house that we ended up building http://i1162.photobucket.com/albums/q530/wetjackson/afc9488f.jpg

and here it is later in the season http://i1162.photobucket.com/albums/q530/wetjackson/Chooks02.jpg

We chosed the Redbro breed for the following reasons: it was not a CornishX, it was a good foraging breed, it had a good conversion rate, it looked really nice on the pasture...

We chose the paddock system because it required the least amount of daily work and provided what we felt was an excellent environment for the birds.

We fed them organic feed, sourced locally and used apple cider vinegar to prevent coccidosis. We had a a survival rate of over 98% from chick to freezer.

We were fortunate to have a local processor that could do custom labels as well as vacuum packaging.

The reality is raising chickens was both satisfying and expensive, but it wasn't for the reasons I would have assumed.

First of all, the redbro's were not expensive. We paid $1.05 for them in the qty of 200, given their robustness I would say they were an absolute bargain. They had a conversion rate of right at 3:1 and this was over a 12 week period of time.
The labor requirement was minimal, we spent 5 minutes in the morning to open the drop gate, 10 minutes in the afternoon to feed them, and 5 minutes at dusk to shut the gate. They were all nicely inside by the time we arrived
Every week we would lift the Premier fence and hook onto the skid with our tractor. Pull it forward about 100 ft and drag the water skid up to the chook house and reconnect the fitting. Easy...
The 12 week life cycle naturally took longer and tied up our money for a longer period of time, but because of our reletively efficient system, it seemed like a good trade off. We actually had to meter the feed to them after week 7 to keep them in the 4-6lb dressed range.
We received $3.75/lb for these birds and did not spend enough time on the marketing side of things to really push that any further.

So how did this experiment turn out?

Basically, we split things 3 ways with the Feed Store and the Processor. However, we had to front all the money, supply all the labor, sell all the birds, and assume all of the risk.

So there are only 2 ways to improve this situation, decrease the amount of money spent or increase how much we charge.

We could have used Cornish chicks and saved no money.
We could have used a different method of raising them, but would have traded labor for up front costs.
We could have fed them non-organic feed, but would have difficulty getting a premium price for the birds.

So there were really only 2 significant ways to reduce our costs.

Do the processing ourselves. (this is probably the easiest money, but there are some issues regarding equipment and scalability?
or...
Raise our own feed, preferably by planting edible food that the chickens themselves can harvest with our moving paddock system.

If not, we simply have to charge more for the product or increase the volume to an acceptable level. This sounds good, except you still have to sell your product.

We were selling our birds locally and had several people visit the farm to see how they were raised prior to processing. Everyone loved how they would run up to the fence to greet us and commented on how they looked exactly like they remembered from their youth, etc., etc., etc... This worked great and even carried over "okay" at the farmers market with pictures and conversation, but since this was our only product at the time it was still a costly venture. Selling the birds through a co-op or other outlet proved impossible since they had to add a little in for their efforts as well and our chickens looked just like any other chicken once it was processed and sitting in the cooler. No story line, no chance of getting premium $$$

We have since decided to raise enough birds for our own use utilizing the same methods as described above, but have given up on this as an income stream until we can figure out a way to significantly reduce the feed costs or find a marketing partner that could help move enough of these birds to justify the risk.

As always, finding and educating a large enough market for your premium products is at least as much work as raising the product itself...


 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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It seems to me that you're accepting the risk so you should build your system so that you reap as many of the rewards as possible. I suggest that you grow 1-10 acres of "chicken feed", be that millet, corn, barley, rice....Figure out whatever you'll need to create a balanced diet/feed for your birds. Then you measure the per acre output that you achieve, and your available land for chicken feed production becomes your 'ceiling' limit for bird production. You can only raise how many chickens you can successfully feed. Then you figure out how to dedicate your land to growing those crops and the amount of chickens you can raise is balanced by the quantity of land you manage. You become the producer by removing yourself from the chains of a commodity market. Either you do this or you share the risk with a local producer to split the profit of the chickens. THat gives the grain producer a set price per acre of their production and doesn't put them at the mercy of the market or at least splits the risk with them. The only market you have to worry about is resale. I'm sure others have done similar things but it just occurred to me.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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