Monday, February 24, 2014

One week in the Incubator, Traffic Jam in the nest boxes

Week one and we're still doing our thing. I took one Banty egg out already. When I candled it, I could see free floating bubbles in it. Ruptured air cell. I don't see any signs of life yet in any of the Banty eggs. I wonder if she's got such a fluffy feathered butt, and neither of the roosters are small enough to get the deed done.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why does my hamburger cost so much?

As copied from
"............He sells his cattle for $3.50/lb hanging weight, but what I really wanted to know is how much profit margin he's making vs his input costs.  Kill fee and cut-and-wrap fees are included in that amount. 

HHW (hot hanging weight) is the weight of the warm steer immediately after slaughter.  This includes about 5% extra weight that will be lost as the animal cools and drains blood; typically beef is hung for two to three weeks after slaughter, and during this  hanging time the animal looses water weight.  Hanging weight includes the weight of the head and hooves; what is removed is the hide and the organs.  A typical yield for choice-grade cattle is 62% of live weight. 

So to yield a 900lb HHW you'd need a 1500lb or so live weight steer.  So from what was said it costs about $1.50/lb (grain, hay, corn silage) to put a pound of live weight on a steer.  One pound of live weight is .62lb of hanging weight.  So it costs $1.50 to put on beef that you'll sell for $2.17. 

Well, not really.  the quoted price of $3.5 includes kill fee and cut and wrap fees, which around here are about $60 for the kill and  $0.60/lb for the cut-and-wrap - so the gross proceeds to the farm aren't $3.5, they're $2.9.    And 62% of $2.9 is $1.79.  His gross margin is about $0.29 per pound - he makes about $0.60/cow/day.   If I were to pay someone to feed and water the cows, I'd expect that to take about an hour, or an hour and a half.  At $10/hour, that's a daily labor cost of $10 to $15.  at this rate, that's the entire profit from  51lbs of beef -- or 25 head.     Since I'd expect his production to be about 35 cows a year (70 cows * 50% bull calves) this enterprise survives on the profit from 10 cows after labor costs.  I don't know what he leases the barns for, or whether he owns or leases the other property his cow-calves are on, but there are costs there, too. 

My opinion?  Thats a vanishingly small profit margin.  If a cow dies or doesn't gain as expected, or the lease on the barn goes up, or any one of a number of other things go wrong, there won't be any profit from this entire operation for the year.  It's possible that he makes more money on selling breeding stock or show steers and that makes up for this small margin, but I think his prices are a bargain at his expense.  Great deal for the consumer, considering the beef right now in the supermarket is way north of $3.5 a pound for virtually every cut. 

I sell my beef at $3.5/lb hanging weight exclusive of kill and cut-and-wrap fees, and that extra $0.60/lb is the difference for me between making a profit and making a loss, after considering equipment, fuel, rent and other associated costs. 

He showed samples of his beef, and they looked great.    I'd buy some.  And honestly, after looking at these numbers and his operation, I just might.  I don't think I could produce beef myself any cheaper. 

I may have misstated some of these numbers; I'm going to go back to the farmer and confirm what I've written here to make sure I've got it down correctly........ "

After reading this, and contemplating the hardship of the American cattle farmer,drought, blizzards... I was so glad we started raising our own steers. The cattle ranchers have either had to sell off or slaughter what they couldn't feed, or freak blizzards killed thousands of cows. It'll take at least two years to come back from that, for those that can even afford to buy new stock, for the heifer calves to come to age to breed, and start calving. For most of the ranchers this last few years was it. They folded and went under. I count myself so lucky that we've started raising what we eat, and are on the road to being more self sufficient. 

Eggs in the Bator

Connie works for Valley Co-Op and got me a heck of a deal on a still air incubator. $30 for a brand new Farm Innovators model. I'd left 12 marked eggs in the nest boxes hoping to entice a hen to set them, and been holding a weeks worth of eggs on the counter at a time hoping. Every day I went out and no one seems interested.

 Don't these chickens understand that I lovingly go out every day and spread scratch grains and layer pellets for them? I make sure they always have fresh water to drink. I leave them to roam all over the property and never complain about stepping in a wet chicken turd when I go out on the porch at night in my stocking feet. I clean popped on shavings out of their chicken condo that Scotty built just for them so nothing will eat them in the night time while they sleep. Is it too much to ask for just one hen to want to settle her fluffy feathered ass on some eggs for me for 20 days?
So Connie got an incubator .

We set it up in the office and let it run it over night to make sure it held it's temp at 99.5, and put 26 eggs in the next morning. I have 9 green EE's, 3 olive EE's, 9 little Cochin, and 5 cream eggs from either the White Rock or the Austra White. The roo's are either my splash Polish, or the White rock.Today is day one, 20 to go, WOOT!!!

Here's the possibly Daddies

The Captain 


Easter Eggers

Speckles- Austra White
Cochin Orpington 
The White Rocks, and the Austra White carry the Barred gene. The Polish carries the blue gene. The EE's have the blue/green egg gene, so it should be really fun seeing what I get out of these eggs.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Holy giant egg, steers at the butcher, finally had some snow

This winter has been especially dry. Last winter we didn't have to have our driveway plowed once. We managed to get snow on days we didn't have to work. This winter there just wasn't any snow. We had some flurries here and there. Nothing I couldn't drive the little green truck through to get out of the driveway. I had to drive the dodge a few times because of ice or slick roads from fog. Last week we finally got some snow. About 6-7+ inches of the white stuff. Still didn't have to plow the driveway, but we need the moisture so desperately.

Yay, finally snow.
Foxy snow pony

Foxy and Ben

The chickens got fed in the calf pen. They like to hang under there out of the snow and the wind.

I know the first eggs a chicken lays start small and they get bigger
the older a hen gets, but this was a little extreme.  I feel sorry for the hen who spit this out.
Easter Egger , Banty, and Holy Giant Egg

 And some pics of the rainbow of colors the girls are laying.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Andrea took the steers to Nate's house for him to slaughter for us. They've been hanging out in his shop in the cold to age for two weeks. We went over Saturday, late afternoon to help him cut and wrap our steer. Mostly he cut, Scott did all the grinding into burger, and I packaged. We brought home a fourth of the finished product Saturday night and we'll get the rest of it tomorrow. I think he weighed just under 400 pounds hanging weight. That means hide, head and innards removed.

This was a big 1000 pound bull that was hanging to age and waiting it's turn to be cut up.

Our little guy was not so big. 
Jersey T-Bone

We've made burgers from the ground beef, and man were they juicey. We're talking stand over the kitchen sink and scarf em down. So tasty. Last night we grilled ribeye steaks. Oh man oh man. They were so tender, and had so much flavor. Everything you hope you're going to get when you take that first bite of steak after smelling it grill. Scott seasoned them perfectly before grilling. I kept hearing people say that Jersey meat is so much better than beef cow. I don't ever want to raise anything else for the freezer again. Even if someone offered me a free angus steer, already on grass and just needs finishing. Jersey is the way to go. 


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