Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What makes it harder to farm?

I got a call today from a man that I've done business with for the last 6 years.  He asked me if I'd heard anything, any rumors, and I said no, I hadn't, and asked him about what. 

"Well, the corporate headquarters decided that they are going to close the feed mill on highway 20, and you've been a bulk customer of that mill, and as of June you'll have to do something else for your feed". 

Apparently they will give a couple of weeks of pay for every year of service, which must be cold comfort for those guys working at the mill who are 55 or older; I see plenty of folks who get this sort of layoff and then take a substantial pay cut on their next job.  For the corporation it's pretty easy math; no more health care costs, lower employee salary cost, and more profits for the shareholders.  That's all that matters, right? 

The closing of this mill was a surprise.  That mill makes more than 100 tons a day of feed for the local market, which gives it roughly $33k a day in sales, or $600k a month; in the pig farmer area I know of at least 3 pig farmers who are going to have to find another feed source for their complete ration. 

I've just brought in 500 pigs, and I had plans to bring in another 500 a little later this year.  For me this is sort of like saying "hey, the only hardware store in your county is going out of business, so if you need hammers, or nails or whatever, you can drive 10 hours to get them.  Sorry about that!

I asked about the plans and there was some vague answer about relocating the mill to eastern oregon somewhere, or stockton california (more than 1,000 miles away), and that for bagged feed that they'd be running trucks up here to supply the 100 tons of bagged feed that they were currently selling, but there wasn't a solution for bulk feed as I need it. 

I'm glad that he called now, because I'm just about to start planting corn, and it looks like I'm going to plant a lot of corn.   I have been working towards growing and manufacturing my own feed - vertical integration - for years now, and I guess it's time that I started planting farm-scale crops. 

farm-scale:  Enough grain crops so that I have sufficient supply for 1 year or more of operation of my farm.  I'll do corn first, and then figure out minerals and protein later.  I can actually get concentrate that is designed to be added to corn to make a complete ration for pigs, and I guess I'm going there sooner than I thought. 

4 comments:

grasspunk said...

Do you know why they are closing? Reduction in local demand, employment laws, new regulations?

Bruce King said...

He said that the official reason was that the facility that they're in was old and required
too many repairs, and that they were trying to serve a 3 state area with bagged feed from the corner of the USA; a central location would be better.

So I asked where their new location was: "well, we haven't found one yet, but we are looking in eastern oregon or maybe northern california", what about your current customers? "we'll truck in the feed from stockton california".

the guy said that the feed business was growing in sales but that it was growing in pain apprently to meet those sales because of the facility.

the first two answers didn't make sense to me for a profitable, growing business. it's generally not a good plan to not have a plan in place. I got the impression that corporate was trying to give the folks who worked there some faint ray of hope, but the truth is that they're all out of a job come june.

Rich said...

If you start growing the majority of your feed, what types of grain would you grow?

I have no experience with what the weather is like in Washington besides my impression that it seems like it's a whole lot wetter and much less hot than what I'm used to. It's usually interesting to see the differences and similarities in farming techniques between different parts of the world.

grasspunk said...

Three states? That's a huge market. Keep us updated.