9 hours ago
Saturday, May 21, 2011
All paths lead to cattle?
The Meat Chicken
If you'd like to get into farming with the smallest possible investment, meat chickens are pretty much the way to go. For about $150 you can buy all of the equipment you need to raise them. Here's the total list:
1 250 watt red heat bulb. $15
1 Clamp-style bulb socket (with ceramic socket) $10
1 roll chicken wire, 50' x 24" $25
10 8' 2x4 $22
1 plastic bin (for brooding chicks) $13
The chicks and feed will cost you more, but you can easily do chicken tractor chickens for under $300 total investment, and on an average-sized residential lawn, even. You don't need acres. And you turn out a new batch of finished chickens every 8 weeks.
...And that's really the basic problem. Anyone with a couple of hundred dollars can be your competitor. And the birds require daily care and feeding, and they're labor-intensive to process. You don't have to have much in the way of equipment; a pot on the stove and a paring knife, and voila! you're a pastured poultry producer!
Lets contrast that to Cattle.
The Beef cow
You go to the spring feeder auction and buy some yearly calves; probably $600-800 each. You put each calf out on acreage, hopefully with some sort of water. You provide salt block. If your fences are tight and in good shape, well...
That's it. Until October.
...yes, I know that beef guys are gonna give me some grief, but honestly, there's no way that a cow is as much work over the 7 months you feed it out as 4 batches of chickens would be, and considering that a cow produces the better part of a thousand pounds of hanging weight at the end of the year...
It's all a matter of what you spend your time doing. Cattle are popular if you're a big landowner because they're much much easier than most other livestock. I raise both cattle and pigs, and I spend a lot more time looking after my pigs. It's pretty amazing to me how little time I spend on my cattle. Turn them out, look at their trough and fence every week or 10 days, and that's about it. Yep, I could spend more time on them... but I don't have to.
I raise pigs as my primary crop because I like, enjoy pigs. I think that they're neat animals, and I like the fact that the commitment to produce pigs is pretty big -- I don't need as many acres as beef producers do, but I do require more equipment to handle the tons of food and the collection of the tons of food.