Budgeting Time

So, Chris. How much money do you make?

None of your business. But let me say this, we wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a job in town. 10 cows, 8 pigs and 100 layers and 1,000 broilers amount to little more than a hobby. This blog earns me a negative $27 each year. Nobody pays me to write. I just need a creative outlet and appreciate your readership and feedback. That said, I’m uncertain of the value of the time I spend writing. Certainly something to consider.

With that in mind, it’s time to figure out what we’re going to do next year, why we are going to do it and how we are going to pay for it. No real answers in this post, just questions.

I need the farm to grow. I have this weird dream that someday I could derive the majority of our income from the farm itself. But it’s not going to happen with 10 cows. It may not happen with cows at all. But we’re going to drive that direction until we hit a roadblock. How much will that crash and burn cost me? A lot. But how much will it cost me next year? We have to figure that out.

And not just that. We have to budget pasture usage. What ground will rest? What will be stockpiled? Where will we plant trees? Where will we calve? When will we schedule a bull? What will that cost? Should we AI everyone and just use the bull for cleanup? Where will we cut hay? When? With what? Are we going to put up a few thousand square bales this year or should we buy a round-baler? What about next year? Will we have enough cows next year that we’ll utilize the whole pasture and just buy in whatever hay we need? How can I partner more closely with my father to build a multi-generational future now?

What about pigs? I am already receiving orders for July pigs. How many should I raise? Where will we raise them? They are awful hard on pastures. How will they fit into the rotation?

How about chickens? We obviously need more layers as we can’t begin to meet the demand for eggs. But that also indicates we need to raise prices. What is the next price target? How many customers will that scare away? Should I shoot for 250 layers June 1 and begin a 6-month replacement program, selling birds at their first molt? Should I keep birds until their second molt and make stewing hens? We haven’t seen a lot of success marketing stewing hens to this point. Maybe I should protect first year layers behind netting but just let second year birds roam behind the cows in egg-mobiles, knowing we will lose some. How can I lower our feed requirements? Can I eliminate soy?

And turkeys!? Just today I got orders for turkeys. Do they really fit into our operation?

If the overarching goal is for me to earn my full-time income from the farm and to build an empire that will include my children and their families, well…I have to get off of my tookus, sharpen my pencil and figure some of this stuff out.

There is a lot to think about with the coming year. A lot for me to figure out. Not just goals but how to pay for goals and how to determine which goals will pay for themselves. And this is just the farm…just a percentage of our total household budget. I have the rest of the household to figure out too.

This is a lot like work. I hope you are working on it too…both in your business and in your personal life. Money is hard to earn and easy to spend. A little purposeful reflection and restraint go a long way.

Next week may simply be next week. But next week is also next year. Next week or next year, head toward it with a plan…a destination in mind. Don’t be like Alice.

‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. ‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.

‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’

Where are you going?

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21 thoughts on “Budgeting Time

  1. I have the same weird dream.

    I’m still on the minimizing expenses trip. Revenue side is hibernating.

    Yep. These soggy days are good for something. Time to think. Time to tend the fire of planning.

    I think next year we will concentrate on our rooted friends. I want to eat nice fruit next year.

    May keep the animals few. It is nice going down to the lowest animal headcount that we’ve had in 5 years.

  2. I for one would like to say that your writing provides GREAT value to me and I’m sure many others. It’s nice to read about the process that you and your family are going through in getting your farm going. Farming is hard enough, doing it in isolation can be down right unbearable. We need to learn from others to help us minimize mistakes so we can be profitable, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    I pray that this coming year brings clarity for the direction you need to take your farm and that God blesses your work.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • Thanks Craig. I appreciate that.

      In some ways I blog to say thanks to other bloggers. If I had to figure any of this stuff out on my own…well, I wouldn’t. So I copy what other people are doing and link to their ideas as I find what works.

  3. I’m too tired to answer today. But I did want to note (because I can’t recall if you have it now) that Kencove chicken netting is head and shoulders above Premiers. Maybe I mentioned this already in another comment. Did I mention I was tired? REALLY tired?

    • Premier’s must be horrid then. I have four sections of Kencove’s poultry net and am very disappointed in it. All the posts are like snakes now from deforming in the heat and it seems like I am constantly unhooking it from itself when I move it. Not a fun product to use.

      • Thanks Paul. I wonder if each supplier has had quality control issues at times. Our Premier fence has only failed where we hit it with the hay conditioner or my great aunt ran over it. Otherwise, flawless 4 years in. Kristin has had rather different experiences with hers though.

        • I am more rested today. I thought I had told you. Sorry for the repeat.

          Paul, I do find the Kencove connectors to be on the short side but they are put together more strongly than the Premier poultry net connectors. The posts on Kencove’s are fiberglass. Why would they deform? That’s pretty scary. Ours have not gone through a summer yet. They just don’t sag like Premier’s.

          I now have some Kencove Sheep netting and do prefer Premier’s. I think the Kencove sheep net is a bit light weight in comparison, although easier to step in.

  4. Expenses will definitely be cut as moving into semi-retirement will cut income. But more time t devote to garden and “farm.” Bigger garden for sure and at least one steer and one pig will be added to the layers.

    As an aside, our turkey(s) have always been penned with our chickens. They started together as poults and seem to get along.

    Thanks for the thoughts and have a great Christmas.

  5. I love your writing. I’m disappointed when their isn’t something new. I use Premier netting and think it is great. I haven’t used Kencove though. What is the difference between the two? Premier pig netting is the best stuff ever. We raise turkeys for Thanksgiving and we make the most profit on them compared to pigs sold by the whole or half, broilers, and eggs. People are willing to shell out the cash for a one time holiday event, Processing stinks because of the time of year and our location which is New Hampshire. Thanks for all the great writing!

    • Thanks for the details on turkeys. The margin detail is interesting. Processing stinks.

      At least the flies aren’t out when we butcher turkeys…that is, if we wait until Thanksgiving and process 30-40 pound birds.

      • JP – I prefer the Premier Sheep net to the Kencove, as noted above. I do love the Premier pig net. I prefer the Kencove Poultry net to Premier’s as it has rigid vertical stays that keep it from sagging like the Premier does. The step ins are easier on the foot too.

  6. Mine sags and doesn’t short out (or not enough to make any difference)…it kills the grass where it touches and everyone respects it. So what is the difference do you think between our systems? Do your animals get out or do you just not like the look of it sagging?

    As a side note, the sheep fence I had from Premier did not last at all, or keep the sheep in. All the struts broke over a period of about 3 years. Now I am using my old poultry net for the sheep and it’s doing a great job.

    • Nita, I’m using portable solar chargers. That may be the difference. The sagging fence really can drag the battery down, particularly when raining. The chickens don’t get out….well, let’s just say, it isn’t a fence issue. But they are across the street and there are predators so I want a good, hot fence around the chickens.

      You must have some crazy sheep. Mine only get out if (1) the fence isn’t hot enough or is left off for a few days, (2) a certain horned steer that has been removed flips the waterer into the fence and a handful of opportunistic sheep that should have been mutton by now jump over. My original sheep net is 7 years old. It’s pretty beat up though and needs replacing. I do have a few broken struts, usually due to my own mismanagement. I move the nets daily so they take a great deal of abuse.

  7. K, Ah yes, solar chargers. Too cloudy here for much of the year for me to even attempt that. We’re still on the 12V marine for most of the fencing, and some is 110v. The batteries hold a charge (and keep folks in) for about 5 weeks, unless of course you have a major short caused by elk, or hunters chasing deer and elk etc, then metal wire on a metal post, and I have a dead battery in about 24 hours 😦 I just bought a new battery for backup, (I keep two) and the old one that finally died was from 2005. So lasted a long time and didn’t owe me a penny.

    Crazy sheep indeed, they would put their heads through the Electronet, and keep on plowing, eventually almost all the struts broke or at least enough we just quit using it. With the poultry net the holes are smaller and the sheep do not get out. I am sure they tried it but if they did I wasn’t there to witness it.

    • I have had a real problem with the batteries in my solar chargers of late. We have a solar home and batteries last 5-10 years, depending on how they are treated. So should the small batteries in my chargers. I think it is a quality issue with the battery manufacturer and I need a better solution. My kids move the fences and chargers often times so I need the system to be light & easy to move.

      I saw your elk fence short. Sorry. What a hassle. At least you got to see them do it and not find out later when the cows were out. :-/

      My sheep do not put their head through the fence UNLESS it is left off for more than a day or so. As you’ve noted with cows, the sheep can sense when it is on. As long as I’ve got at least 3K volts on the fence, they stay in. Of course, if they don’t have enough food, they’ll get out too. That’s a management issue, not a fence issue though.

      Crazy sheep don’t stay in anything. For me, it’s a breed/personality issue and just a handful of sheep I, in error, agreed to take. They will be eaten as soon as possible. My main herd is very calm & easy to handle. This is what I like in sheep.

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