Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
We are a small farm in our first year of farming. When we originally did our market research and set our prices, we were unable to find a local source or organic feed. We raise pastured poultry, pastured pork, free range eggs and free range turkey. To begin, we are new to the region of Southwestern Ohio. We have studied eatwild and local farmers markets to get our price range, crunched some numbers. All of this was based on other local feed sources.
To feed all organically our price cost will more than double and in some cases triple. This is pure bottom line, and we already get some resistance to our prices....
I know that I need to work on educating our customers with transparency, but we are in a situation with brand new customers that have placed orders already and we have yet to produce anything...
How do we raise prices?
Do we raise them only for future orders and grandfather the current orders?
We don't want to lose business this year, and we are unable to gauge whether or not "organic" is a selling point for our customers.
We need help
Where do you live? Might ask around and start talking to growers. I work with a farm guild and we were able to work with a grower that was willing to start selling their non-GMO home made feed to us for a really good price, and we found another grower who has lots of chickens who makes a little money on the side adding in some needed minerals for the cooperative. Even if it doesn't exist yet, there might be some interest if you ask around.
Hi Full of Graze!
Good topic and we struggled with the decision of whether to get into raising pastured birds or not over the winter and found the price of grain was our biggest obstacle. We found the price of the bird ($1), the price to feed it (even on pasture - $3) and the processor wants $3 per bird for USDA processing.
On the other hand, if we raise them FOR the processor - they will pay us $4.50 per pastured bird. Still with a $4 investment, this didn't make sense.
So we started looking at fodder systems (sprouting grains) and found:
This same system can be applied to all grain fed animals and we are in the process of building large and small systems to meet the needs of our animals and the needs of friends and neighbors.
We know grain prices aren't going to drop anytime soon so I see this as an investment we can't afford to make. And consider this - if you are going to do any kind of respectable production, then your grain costs will kill you. Farmers are paying $1,000 a month to raise chickens and can reduce their costs to $175 with this system - and that's with adding minerals, calcium and other inputs into a fodder system. For us - if we have been spending $200 on feed - we dropped to $30 a month on our feed for our chickens (baby chickens), pot belly pigs and dairy goats. Every dollar I spend on a fodder feeder saves me for the life of the system (12+ years).
This doesn't mean you can quit improving your field system as now that I have this system going for us - I can produce the amount of grains we plan on and feed 8 times more animals!
Hope this helps - I know it is improving our bottom line and our design saves us valuable time managing the system meant to save money and improve the health of our animals.
I suggest that in the mean time, you do what you must to make the farm pay. If you're not turning a decent profit, then you've got nothing more than a really expensive, labor intensive hobby. When people question why you don't feed all organic, ask them how much they'd like to pay. $5/lb? $6/lb? Unfortunately, the common consumer who wants "organic" chicken finds it at the grocery on sale for $3/lb and thinks that anyone raising pastured poultry should sell for the same price. That "organic" chicken was fed an unnatural DIET most likely. An all grain/vegetarian diet , whether or not it's certified organic, isn't natural. Then factor in the petroleum and carbon footprint. That "organic" grain was likely grown in a huge unsustainable mono-culture and had to be shipped and processed. How much carbon are we willing to displace just so we can say our chickens are fed organic grains? Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to feed organic, but the only feed available comes from out of state and with all the shipping costs, is triple what I can pay for conventional feed that comes from a mill half as far away. But now I don't just feed them the grain, I push my birds to forage. Being that the broiler chicken was developed with a voracious appetite, they will chow down on some grass and bugs! The last week prior processing, I pull their grain completely and they forage for 100% of their food. This gives me a 4-5 lb bird on average in 10 weeks. I believe there is more to be said for food that is locally sourced though it might not have that coveted USDA certified organic label.
Most people are not yet ready to make the necessary lifestyle change so that they can spend more than 10% of their income on food.
Sprouting Fodder for ProfitsIts really about prioritizing. You want to start by giving your animals the best food at the most reasonable cost.
Soon, you should be able to reduce your costs enough to cover the expense of Organic Certification as well as cover farm expenses, depending on how you scale up your production.
Another little trick to reduce feed costs is animal tractors. The smallest ones can hold chickens and be run between row crops. The larger ones can be used to mow lawns! The only problem I have found with the big tractors is they take the yard machine to move them but they sure come in handy to pasture the pot bellies and goats - both are escape artists when it comes to regular fencing.
We are also reading up on silage and haylage. Though its too hot and dry this year, it will come in handy to know how to make it on the wet years.