Tuesday, April 17, 2012

market notes, April 2012

This last 7 days have been pretty packed; we've sold 173 weaner pigs to a variety of individuals; the biggest single sale was 12 pigs; the average is probably 4.  A week ago I was thinking I had too many pigs, and now I'm thinking I have two few.

We have people waiting on 300 more weaners, which we should be able to fill around the first of the month, and then we're pretty solidly in BBQ pig season; delivering the first pig May 19th, and then two or three a week after that all the way through august.   That part of the business is growing, too. 

To have this many weaners I had to make a guess what the demand would be last year, and it looks like I guessed correctly.  If anything, I was conservative; the demand for weaned pigs is huge this year.  I have people driving 5 hours to get pigs.  

I haven't written about the sheep recently because, well, there's not much to write about.  They eat grass and suckle their lambs and generally take care of themselves on pasture.  I look at them every day to make sure that they're ok, and once a week I look at their hooves and think about trimming them, but they're doing ok.  Our lamb survival this year has been excellent; fingers crossed, we haven't lost any.  The eagles haven't been showing interest, and our coyote prevention measures seem to be good so far. 

I reached an agreement with a nearby landowner that I could graze their 17 acre parcel this year; so I purchased 10 steers at the auction to put out to pasture.  The steers are 400lbs or so; I'll graze them into the fall and probably sell most of them.  I am finding that I prefer an older cow for beef; 2 to 3 years old is a pretty good age, so for me, raising beef is a bit like putting a bottle of wine away to age.  It gets better with time. 

The landowner agreement is pretty simple:  I fence and run the cattle, and at the end of the year, I give them a half a beef.  So my cast cost for a 17 acre parcel is about $200 for a year.  That's a good deal. 

The weather this year is supposed to be neutral; not la nina, like this year (cold and wet and rainy) nor el nino (warmer and drier) but somewhere in the middle.  That sounds good, but it's in the neutral years that we get the biggest storms for reasons I cannot figure out.  So I've intensified my search for evacuation land for my animals in the event of flood, and surprisingly enough, I've found a 2 acre parcel that comes complete with a concrete-floored 30x40 barn, electricity and water for a price that I like.  Best of all it's adjacent to some of my property, but off the flood plain.  Perfect.  I'm making an offer this week. 

At the end of this week 7 pigs go to the custom slaughter shops, sold to customers who want local pork. 

Compared to last year at this time, our gross sales are up 30%.  I think that people are starting to feel better about their finances and the economy; I'm starting to see more spending, and a little less price resistance.  It's a welcome change from 2008 or 2009.  We're still not well, but it feels like we're on the mend. 


becky3086 said...

Wow! That is a LOT of pig selling! I thought the man that I got my pigs from had a lot of pigs but he is definitely small time compared to you.
I find it kind of amazing that that many people want to raise pigs there.
It is wonderful that all your lambs survived and what a good deal you got on the 17 acres for the cattle.
I also think it is great that you have a plan for your animals in case of flood. I have always wondered what people did who lived in these places that flood all the time.
I don't know about people feeling better about the economy. Maybe we have just gotten used to it but I think a lot more people think about raising their own food now.

Bruce King said...

Last year we sold a little under 2,000 pigs. This years goal is to sell 2100, but to work on the price per pig sold. It is a lot of work to sell this many pigs; lots of customer contact, lots of handholding, but pretty fun, too. Enjoy helping people get closer to their food.
We're still having teething pains with pig sales; it has taken a while to get formal about orders, and a waitlist and deposits, but I'm making progress.

I do have to give credit to the farmhands; Sean, Dan and a new hire, Casey. They've been doing a great job with the retail end of the business.

Rae said...

I'm not surprised by the 5hr drives. Seems to be more and more difficult to find people with weaners for sale. We've gotten lucky, and have a guy 20 minutes from us. Much smaller operation, but close, and a really nice family.

I didn't realize how many pigs you raise/sell. Craziness! I don't know how you find time to blog at all. :)

Bruce King said...

Hi Rae; in all fairness, I talk about this as if I do it all, but I have 2 full time and 1 part time employee and family and friends who pitch in from time to time. My brother Bryan has been a great help on big projects.

There are quite a few 1 or 2 sow operations out there, and they're usually great, but they're fragile. Doesn't take much to get them to stop raising pigs. I think its a little easier if you get a little bigger; if you make a good hire that person will make your life so much better.

I was curious a year ago how many weaner pigs I could sell, so decided to roll the dice. So far so good.