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TBT Deep Bedding

February 19, 2015

From the March 2002 archives.

belle, mel 2002
shed 2002
gh2 2002 hens2
gh2 2002 hens
Not too much has changed…we have less chickens these days, more dogs, and the about the same amount of cows.  Plants grow in this greenhouse now instead of eggs.  It’s fun looking back.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Elva permalink
    February 19, 2015 3:26 pm

    When does your grazing season usually start and end? What is your average rest period before returning to a paddock?

    • February 19, 2015 4:27 pm

      It used to be from April to September, with mob stocking my small group it’s now mid-April to mid-December. Rest starts out at 14 days and moves up to about 65+.

      • Elva permalink
        February 19, 2015 7:49 pm

        It is so hard to imagine that your grazing season only begins a few weeks before mine, when right now the snow is up to my waist and the temperature is once again twenty below zero, and I have been drooling over those pictures of green grass in your blog!!! My rest periods start around 24 and go to 35, with an average of 30, but this year I hope to lengthen that to around 35 or even 40. I hope this will be a good plan.

        • February 19, 2015 8:47 pm

          I think it’s warmer where you are once it warms up, we’re just like a big refrigerator most of the time. Not much grass growth with 40F nights here at the 45th parallel.

  2. February 19, 2015 4:07 pm

    beautiful shots as always, and so many years have passed. It IS fun looking back, but what lessons do you wish you had learned sooner, so curious. Last winter I started reviewing our past 4 years and was UBER hard on myself (still in that funk a year later.)

    • February 19, 2015 4:34 pm

      On the cows we learned the first year to have a no calves born in the barn, and to not use rainfall collection for water. One afternoon rainstorm would flood the barn, so what is supposed to be carefree turned out to be a babysitting proposition. And the biggie – we wasted a lot of time with poultry,too many inputs needed.

      • February 20, 2015 12:20 pm

        Thanks for your lessons shared. Boy howdy on inputs. This is why I am so utterly intrigued with cows moving forward.

        • February 20, 2015 12:42 pm

          OMGoodness, don’t get me talking about cows and landscapes! They fit in soooo well here, with what we can grow, Miss Janey is the exception, but well, she’s special 🙂

  3. barefootfarmflower permalink
    February 19, 2015 6:21 pm

    Poultry- that’s my big one right now. At least the chickens for eggs are a real loss. I’m switching over to ducks for eggs. I wish I’d figured that out 5 years ago. I keep eyeballing my flock of non-laying year old hens and mumble “stew hens…stew hens”.

    • February 19, 2015 8:44 pm

      It’s pretty hard to get chickens to even break even, grain is high, and all the equipment for them is pretty much only good for poultry. Now the cows that’s a different story, even if the cows go away, I still need gates, etc, not much use for nest boxes, and poultry feeders.

  4. February 20, 2015 7:25 am

    Nita- with that set up for the chickens, did you ever worry about predators, especially the hated raccoons?

    • February 20, 2015 7:31 am

      No, that’s why we have dogs. Now out in the field during the grazing season that was a different story, electric netting did the trick there. Our hens are in the same setup now only in a smaller greenhouse.

  5. February 20, 2015 1:26 pm

    So all this talk about inputs and profits — Is there a price point where the eggs make sense even if you have the inputs, or is it more that its a philosophical thing about the inputs?

    the folks who sell eggs at the farmers market around seattle get something like $7/dozen for eggs. Would that have been enough?

    what price would make it worthwhile?

    • February 20, 2015 1:51 pm

      I can only speak for us, eggs paid for a number of years, we sold pasture raised, but we fed a custom mix that was not organic, which was better than the organic available at the time. Our markets were CSA’s, restaurants, and a few buying clubs. Feed and fuel prices have crept up, where egg prices have not. Consumer demands have changed too, non-GMO, organic or local are sought after by the consumer, but there is a reluctance to really pay the price it costs to use those types of feed. I don’t think I would do anything but break even at $7.00 per dozen, and that wouldn’t figure in the real labor costs. I have no doubt I could market 350 dozen eggs a week in PDX, but I wouldn’t make a dime. I can’t argue that eggs are good go-along for a CSA full diet type of farm, but chickens are an expensive proposition compared to an extra vegetable patch, they still have to eat and be protected whether they produce or not. Carrots just lie there.

      Others may be better at egg labor than we were, or have different costs. Please chime in if you do.

    • February 20, 2015 4:30 pm

      I’m going to invite myself into this conversation because it’s something I have wrestled with quite a bit…and may still be wrestling with in fact.

      Prices don’t make any sense without cost context…though production cost is rarely a factor from a consumer’s perspective.

      Henderson wrote about price issues with shell eggs in The Farming Ladder. He found he was better off hatching the eggs and selling pullets and cockerels. Then he found a better deal selling all of his eggs to a hatchery and buying the pullets back from them. But whatever his arrangement, he felt the heavy stocking rate (something like 100 birds per acre) enabled them to carry more cows, pigs and sheep overall. Salatin has said the same thing saying it would pay to carry a flock of roosters just to keep the pastures clean and fertility up.

      What is that worth?

      But wait! There’s more. Eggs are kind of a gateway drug. Accounting for labor we sell our eggs at cost or a slight loss but we always make it a point to give away a surplus dozen or two. Then we wait. Soon the phone will ring. “These eggs are like nothing I have ever had before!” Then they buy a chicken. Then half a hog. Then a quarter of beef. Then you win.

      Eggs aren’t a great business. But eggs are good for business. IMHO.

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