An emu was hit on the highway 2 trestle (the bridge that spans the island that i farm on) and it made the local paper, and in a discussion related to that article there were a couple of comments that I thought were interesting because it exposes the attitude that people have about farms.
In short, farms should be, and should only be, what you see on the side of the egg carton. The beautiful red barn and the green lawn, with the chickens scratching in the yard.
Here's a quote:
"Sorry to hear that the bird was not able to be saved. On another note, Ebey Island looks more like a trash dump than a viable agricultural area. Some of the land owners should invest some time into cleaning up their properties; anyone coming west over the trestle has to see an enormous eyesore to the right side. The trestle is the gateway to Everett and the west coast via Highway 2, which comes all the way from Boston, and should be treated as such. For many people, hitting the trestle is the first time they have ever seen salt water or lowland marsh areas. The last thing they should see is something that resembles a landfill. "
My view? Piss on you, motorist. Want to see a view of what he's talking about?
You can use the street view on the highway to see it from the motorists perspective.
There's a vocal minority of folks who have a particular way that they'd like to see a farm look, and for the most part it's non-farmers who make this sort of statement. They'd prefer that your farm look like a golf course, and they want their meat at the lowest possible cost. It bothers them to see anything that intrudes on their red barn farm fantasy. If its shown on a milk carton, why, by all that is holy, that's the way it should look!
So I'm arguing with one anonymous person, and they made this comment:
"This is really unfortunate about the emu, and agreeably about the property and other animals down there. While that is zoned agricultural and being used for agriculture, it is horribly over populated for that small of space. If there were fewer hogs and sheep and if they were rotated the property could look like the pasture on the south side of the highway where the cattle is pastured. It would be tempting to purchase, but the soil will require several years maintenance and no animals before it's healthy. "
(has this guy ever seen a plowed field? What on earth is he talking about? a single growing season is sufficient for anything you want to grow. My plan is corn, but whatever. This is my first clue that the guy is clueless)
This guy claims that he reads my blog, and further that he's a farmer. Apparently he raises a goat and some chickens. Yep, a farmer for sure.
The land he's referring to is an 800 acre parcel directly south of my farm. It was donated to the YMCA of snohomish county by a paper company 6 years ago. The YMCA was given 2.5 million dollars for something that the legislature referred to as "the ebey island project" -- no further details available -- and was eventually purchased by the washington department of fish and game for 11 million additional dollars, making the price of that parcel $13.5 million dollars. That's $16.8k an acre, when the market price in this area for land is about $4k an acre. The government paid more than 4 times the market rate for that land, making it impossible for private ownership to compete. I know this because I offered to pay $6k an acre for 100 acres of that land myself. This overpayment eliminated any possibility of that land being farmed profitably, ever.
For many years, In the spring and summer, that land is leased by a local farmer who in turn subleases the grazing rights to hundreds of cattle. This guy is telling me that if I just managed my land as they do, that it'd be much better. This lease will not be extended next year is the word I get.
Lets imagine that a private entity purchased that land, and wanted to make a 3% return on it -- a meagre profit, but a nice starting point -- it's enough to pay the taxes and have a little bit of money to fix bridges and roads and stuff on the property.
That's $405,000 a year.
So how many cows would you have to graze to earn $405k a year? lets make it a simple business. We'll buy our cows in the early spring, graze them, and sell them in the fall. Assume that we'll have to hire trucks to go get the calves, erect and maintain fencing to keep the cows on the land, provide minerals and some sort of veterinary care, hire people to do all of this, and we'll have some mortality.
. Lets assume that all of that is 15% of the sale price of the cows.
Beef cattle are selling for $1.25 a lb average when they're 600lbs, so they cost $750 each. They sell for about a buck a pound when they weigh 1000lbs. So we make a gross profit of $250 on each cow we run, less the 15% overhead, or a net profit of $212.50 per cow.
So now the math is easy. $405,000 / 212.50 means that we have to run 1,905 cows on that land to make a 3% profit.
Wow. that's a big number. How much money would we have to have on hand to buy that many cows? simple math. $750 * 1905 = 1,428,750. Pretty close to 1.5 million dollars.
WAIT A SECOND. We have to make a return on that 1.5 million bucks, too. If a business has gold-plated credit they can borrow money at 7%. 7% of 1.5 million is $105,000
So to make the interest payment on that money we need to run another 494 cows.
Hmmm... that's 2,399 cows. On 800 acres. That's 3 cows per acre stocking level.
One way to look at stocking levels is the weight of the animal, a "unit". So lets say that a unit is 1,000lbs. Our pigs average around 200lbs (weaners are tiny, sows are huge, lots of weaners), so it's 5 pigs per unit.
A sheep weighs in at a little over 100lbs on average (figuring in the lambs) so sheep are 10 per unit.
figure a single cow is about a unit by itself.
So my entire farm (40 sows, 4 boars, lots of weaners, 30 sheep, 4 cows, plus some poultry) would add up to... 15 units of animals. that parcel is 12 acres. So I'm stocking at 1.25 units of animals per acre.
I'm stocking at a rate that is 1/3rd what they'd have to do to make a profit - but they don't have to make a profit. It's a gigantic tax payer subsidy project over there.
So goat-and-poultry farmers point seems to be that if I stocked my land in a way that made sure that I'd never make a profit of any sort, he'd approve of it.
Goat-and-poultry, I think you missed the whole private enterprise portion of our culture. I'm open to suggestions on ways to make a profit, but when you compare my operation to a huge government project that will never ever turn a profit in any sense -- in fact, fish and wildlife will end up paying for the maintenance of that land in perpetuity, it'll cost the government money -- well....
4 hours ago