Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 2015 farm plan

This is the sketch of the plans for 2015.  

The cow herd  
Going to increase my dairy herd by 10 cows this year, from 20 to 30.  Hopefully finding some good heifers in the 300 to 600lb range.  This set of cows will probably be the last that i purchase -- from next year on the normal calf production should cover my replacement animals and produce steers for sale as meat, so I'll be set there.    We are carrying 7 steers now, and I'll sell those as grass fed cattle in 2015.  

I'll be certifying the whole cow herd as organic, so I'll start that process in 2015 and we'll be organic about the same time as the pastures are certified. 

The pig herd
The pig portion of the farm continues to be a strong earner; margins are good, and we're still selling every animal we produce at a good price.   The primary emphasis for the farm will continue to be weaner pig sales.  I'm increasing my sow herd by 20 in 2015, and I'll be reserving a larger percentage of our weaner production for sale as finished animals.  

The land
It takes 3 years to have pastures and planting land certified organic; i'm on the 2nd year of that.  I'll be able to be certified organic in 2016, with will coincide with the start of commercial milking. 

Forage and crops
The alfalfa and orchard grass production was good last year, and the stands look to be in pretty good shape going into winter.  We'll see if the alfalfa survives the rains, but I'm sure that the orchard grass will.  We'll aim at producing another 100 to 150 tons of forage this coming year.  I will probably buy an accumulator and bale grab to reduce the amount of labor needed to pick up the bales in the field.  

I'm going to grow more human vegetables this year; I was happy with the size and quality of the acorn squash and various types of pumpkins grown, this year I'd like to experiment with plastic mulch so that we can keep the weeds down and continue to grow organically.  

House and barns
Bluntly put, the house on this farm sucks.  It's a typical farm house, which means that every time they had a good year they added another room to the house, so that it ended up being a giant L shaped house that is basically one long hallway.  Each room has a door on either end, and you have to pass through every room in the house to get from one end to the other. 

I'm probably going to work on making the house more livable by moving some doorways and doing other modifications so that it works better.  I've already rebuilt one of the entrance porches, and I'll be added a roof over each doorway.  Long term I'd probably be better off to just save some money by doing nothing and tearing the house down and starting over, but for the next few years I'd like it to work better, so I'll do a little towards that.  

On the barn front, all of the gutters on the barns need to be repaired and the clean water off the roofs directed away from the livestock housing.  It'll probably mean figuring out a system of drains and an outlet somewhere.  This is partly due to regulation - dairy farms are required to do this - and partly due to liveability.  We get 5 to 8 feet of rain a y ear, and the gutters are dumping the roof water all over the driveways and walkways and so on, and it makes the ground soft and muddy.  

I'll also be looking seriously at a couple of the barns for either replacement or repair.  There's a fair bit of rot and damage, each building is a seperate case.  Next spring I'll go through each building and make a punch list and figure out the plans.  

I'll be tearing down and rebuilding the wellhouse on this property, and installing better water filtration for drinking water for staff and house.  The well water here is high in iron and calcium, and has a little bit of manganese and arsenic in it.  Tolerable, but I'd like to have better water, so a new wellhouse will make the installation and maintenance of the water system easier, and bring it above any likely flood level.  the current wellhouse flooded with 2' of water in the record floods that they had on this property in 2010.  

Towards the end of 2015 we'll be putting the dairy parlor back into commercial shape and having it certified as a grade A dairy again.  it's been certified in the past; it's just a matter of getting everything cleaned and repaired and approved.   We don't need any new equipment, but may need to repair some of it.  


1 comment:

N Taylor said...

Thanks Bruce - it's great to read an overall summary like this and get a feel for how your farm is evolving broadly. You've been at it for a number of years now and it's terrific to read that your farm is not only hanging in there but apparently doing some solid business and growing. I love your style of blogging an in particular your honest insights into the business sides of things...I do hope you keep it coming. Merry Christmas and best of luck to you in 2015!