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Balanced farm income plan

 
Posts: 85
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We nearly have enough money saved to buy some land. I want to be debt free to eliminate a lot of the financial pressure and we are close to achieving that. So this is just planning not acting, but here are my ideas of ways we are going to earn money.

Pastured chickens for eggs.
I figure we can build some permanent fences and a portable shelter and get about 100 chickens on 5 acres to start with, on a 40 day rotation through 8 paddocks. Supermarket prices for free range eggs are about $6-7/dozen and based on my limited experience with truly free range it would be reasonable to expect 4-5 dozen eggs per day so say $200 per week or around $10k year. That's if I can't get a better deal then the supermarkets, though I believe I should because the eggs are better.

Pastured Pigs. Maybe 20 acres 5 breeding sows, a couple of boars and 40 piglets per year. Again I prefer a 40 day rotation. I'll target 1 litter per year, and have the pigs fatten during apple season. I should be able to get $300 per pig on the hoof easily or $12k per year.

Pastured beef. 20 acres for 7 mixed age cows, 7 yearlings and 7 calves. Prime beef 2yr olds are worth around $1500 so maybe $10k per year. Cows will calve mid spring.

Fruit and nuts. I'll be planting a lot of apple trees especially for the pigs, but there should be some saleable harvest. I'm not putting a $ value on this because it is just a bonus and depends on how much harvesting I want to do. Trees can be integrated with the pigs and chickens easily, cows are a bit more of a problem because they just love eating the buds. I'll be planting a wide variety of fruit and nut trees with the pigs and chickens to start with, then decide how to manage the cows and trees.

Tourists.
Some people will actually pay to come and stay on a farm for a few days as they tour around, you feed them and give them a bit of a farm experience, not huge income compared to the cost of the additional housing unless you can get into the high end rich person and feed them super health food.

Produce.
I'm not a huge fan of the produce market, seems to be a lot of work for little money. However if we can get wwooff'ers this would take care of some of the labour and provide additional income.

Grains There is a bit of a market for organic wholegrains, but I don't have much experience in this area so would only be guessing as to what yield I would be getting but it is worth experimenting with a small area.

Milk A couple of milking cows will provide daily fresh milk, this will have to be hyperlocal though, and people will have to pick it up. Maybe averages out to $5k per year, which will pay for a milking machine in no time.

Integration Pigs can follow chickens no problem and vice versa, chickens can also follow cows. I am not sure though if cows can follow pigs, I know they hate the smell of pigshit. I'll keep the cows in their own area until the trees with the pigs and chickens are established at least.

Marketing. To make money I'm going to have to direct market, not wholesale. I figure that since my systems are kinder to the animals, and so much healthier that selling shouldn't be a problem of demand. Finding a good price may be, but I think I have been conservative with my estimates. I plan to get regular customers who will take so many eggs every week and sort out some delivery system maybe once a week. If a person has the responsibility of caring for an animal for 30days or more they can then pay a registered butcher to kill and process it for them, they cant just buy a pig an kill it the same day. So there are ways to sell an animal give someone responsibility for it so they can have it butchered. I'll sell the animal on a preorder basis, worst case scenario I sell direct to the processor and take what price they give me. I can also advertise and sell eggs at the farmers market, the key advertising feature will be the unique organic healthy foods with happy animals. I have sold door to door before, but this is starting to look like too much effort.

That's the bones of the plan, and things change with time but I thought I'd put it out there as an idea for others or open to critique. Should be over $40k per year on less then 50 acres. I don't see the need for much inputs though I could be wrong, if I start needing fertiliser I'll reduce numbers instead of using fertiliser. Maybe on average 2hrs per day, most of that will be with the chickens and eggs. Marketing could add to that but time will tell.
 
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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there is a wool farm near me that makes a lot of money doing stuff with families and kids. they do a summer camp (also some other farms out here have summer camps) and they invite homeschool groups to come and visit. the homeschool group we are part of went and we had to pay for every family member. I think it was 20 dollars per person including the kids. that sort of falls under tourist but it seems a little bit different too.
 
Andy Reed
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Yeah it sounds like a great idea. I was thinking of putting something like that in as well, it would probably be easier to do after about 5 years or so. Once I'm comfortable enough with the place to entertain larger groups of people. I'd be more happy with something like an open day on the weekend where people could come during the summer, and autumn pick your own fruit nuts, berries etc. it would be great to have a few horses and other animals to give make things more interesting. A good way of showing off a sustainable way of farming as well.
 
Posts: 127
Location: Boyd, Texas
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Andy are you planning on using any supplemental feed? That will play a big part in your figures. Where are you located? From your writing it looks like outside the US so some of my advice would need to be modified for your climate and local economy.

For chickens, I would be thrilled with getting the $6-$8 that the fancy stores get for truly pasture raised eggs. The problem is it is hard for me to get much over $3.50 to $4.00 a dozen. This is break even for me since I am now using No-GMO, No-Soy feed. I really need to be getting $5 a dozen.

I love pigs. They are great for cash flow and taste wonderful when raised on pasture. Plus they are all around great animals. I couldn't make a small four to six sow and one boar breeding herd pencil out while feeding them supplemental feed. A sow will eat close to a ton of feed a year and a boar slightly more. This was putting the value of two litters weaning eight piglets each a year at about $75 a piglet when factoring in all costs of the sows, boars, labor, etc. I can buy very nice piglets for $50 each from a guy that is running about a dozen sows. This means my costs are less and I can concentrate all my time and pasturing to the market pigs. If things change I might go back to raising my own piglets, but just doesn't fit in the plan. I get approximately $750-$900 for my direct marketed pigs.

You density on cattle seems awfully high unless you are in somewhere with a mild climate and lots of rain. I am overstocked at 3 acres to a cow and should probably be figuring 4-5 acres to a cow. If you have really lush pastures with potential to stockpile lots of pasture for winter you can get close to the 1 cow an acre figure you are looking at, but it will take very good grazing management and excellent pastures. Here in North Texas a stanard 1000 pound liveweight steer is currently bringing $1400 to $1500 at auction. Direct marketed the same steer brings me $2550.

I like most of your other ideas, but I don't have as much experience with them. I did a two acre market garden in high school for part of my college money, but like you said it is a lot of work for low margins. Same with milking, but you have a lot more legal issues at least here in the US. And you are right, direct marketing is the key to profits at least while small. It sounds like you have some tough rules on selling meat which could hinder doing it the most profitable ways though.
 
Andy Reed
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Hi Paul, I should have said I am in New Zealand, where we have a wettish mild climate, snow in the winter is rare in most places. The prices are in NZ$, which direct exchange is 85c but PPP is a lower. We have no subsidies for agriculture at all so maybe that effects the prices, the sheep and beef farming here is all at least pasture based with most purely pasture. You can get factory farmed eggs for $3-4 dozen here, but they are banning them soon, which will push the price up regardless, I don't think we have so much cheap grain here, maybe.

I manage a 400cow pasture based conventional dairy farm (it's not what I would prefer to be doing, but it's a vehicle to get where I want to be) and I figure my stocking rate of 1cow/acre will be pretty close for a system without fertiliser, currently we are running 2cows/acre with lots of fertiliser, silage and the cows graze off farm for 2 months during the winter. Speaking with old timers who used to operate without fertiliser, winter the cows on farm and keep most of the young stock on farm, they were running at around 1cow/acre. 1 rising 2yr old and 1 calf combined probably are close to the same as 1 cow, in terms of how much they will require. Which will be equal to 15 cows on 20acres, leaving me with 5 acres in which I can use to grow winter feed, Kale is the highest yielding here, but it tends to shade out the understory and once the cows have gone through you are left with bare dirt and mud in the middle of winter, so I will be trying oats and pasture. You stop grazing the paddocks late summer, and then break feed the saved pasture during winter. This paddock will want to be close to the house.

A piglet here costs $100 though from what I've heard it is hard to sell them at that price, a small market and limited demand. What I plan to do is purely pasture the pigs, Sepp Holzer does this, and Walter Jefferies has done this, they are slower growing about 8 months to slaughter. Which is why I'm thinking 1 litter per year, then just carry the sows and boar through winter. I have a very little experience with pigs, and maybe the prices are too low, it was a bit of a guesstimate.

I think my stocking density is pretty close for where I am, but I am flexible - start small etc. Here are my figures that I'm working on, 8 months of the year grass will be growing around 20kg of dry matter (kgdm) per acre every day on average, 2 months of the year it will be growing 2-5kgdm and somewhere in between for the other 2 months. We get double that with fertiliser, so maybe that number can go up with good management, but I am happy with it. A beef cow needs between 12-14kgdm day, and that is on the high side, our dairy cows can eat around 20kgdm, but they are working hard!

North Texas sounds like it must be dry, and I am always surprised at how dry some parts of America are. Which is why land prices can be so cheap over there. I bought some land a few years ago (a mistake) the cheapest I could get for around $1500acre and it's in one of the driest parts of NZ (22inches), very steep and hilly and yeah I am running currently about 7acres per cow, but I don't worry about feed and the cows are always well fed, but I can't get out there every week to shift them because work is pretty demanding, so I could get 4 acres per cow if I put in more fencing etc. I started to think why not go somewhere with a bit more rainfall and make things easier. The hills are too steep and prone to tunnel erosion for swales etc. I could make something work there but it would be very expensive, and challenging.

If you own more then 100 chickens you have to jump through a lot of hoops, and pass yearly inspections, 100 is a good number to have though. The meat issue makes it difficult, though they have relaxed about it somewhat. You can buy raw milk here direct from the farm gate, and a local guy has set up a vending machine where people basically help themselves.
 
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