Monday, March 25, 2013

The 2013 plan: Pigs. More pigs

Oops.  For some reason the contents of this post didn't show up.

I've been steadily growing the pig business for the last 7 years; last year we sold more weaners than we've ever sold;  over 1500 weaner pigs, mostly to folks who wanted to raise their own pigs on their own property. 

I've been waiting to see if we can close the deal on that new farm before I make a firm commitment, but we will end 2013 with more pigs than we started with no matter what happens. 

The pig business is helped by having free bedding, in the form of wood chips from tree service companies, and low-cost feed, in the form of produce from grocery stores, and that means that we really have pretty low input costs compared to a farm that purchases feed, or even to a farm that grows its own feed. 

What that's meant is that we can charge the same price as everyone else does, prices that are based on hog food going for $500+ a ton, and make a nice profit on each pig sold.  And they taste better, and I think that they're happier with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to eat.   Our feed costs average a little under $30/ton; our bedding is delivered to our farm for free. 

A by-product of the pig operation is compost, which we've been adding to our fields to increase the amount of organic material and increase the overall fertility.  The compost also retains water better.   I'm going to try a couple of acres of sweet corn on top of the new compost and see how it does. 

At this point we're down to 2 hours of labor a day for the basic farm chores; that's pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows.    I do staff more hours than that for retail sales -- you have to have someone there to hand the pigs to the customers and answer questions and so on, but that's a standard cost for any farm operation. 

The pigs have been steadily profitable for 7 years now.  I expect to continue with pigs for the forseeable future. 


BigGAdawg said...

Have often wondered how you came to have the produce deal. Did you make the arrangements with various stores yourself or do you have a middle man who collects and delivers it for a fee?

Bruce King said...

It took 3 years for me to get the food chain that I have now.

I started combing through businesses that handled food; cold storage facilities, dairy processors and cooperatives, institutional food handlers and distributors and retail food outlets.

I'd just cold-call them. "Hi. Can I speak to your produce manager?"

Businesses aren't in business to do me a favor; my basic "product" is that I can give them a less costly alternative to disposing of food items than they would otherwise have. In my area, it helps a great deal that most of the food would otherwise go to cedar grove composting -- a company that has been sued and fined for various things, and is not very popular with a surprisingly large percentage of the population around here.
So I work hard so that giving the produce/food to me is easier and cheaper than a more traditional method. (Read: Landfill)

So for my food operations I use Ford F450 trucks pulling gooseneck trailers and I have 3 of them, and two drivers. We can, and do, pick up when they call and say that they need it gone soon, we pick up on schedule, and by having 3 trucks, if one breaks down we can cover that pickup with another truck. The trucks are all ex-county government trucks I picked up at auction for about $4k each. I like county trucks because even though they're 13 years old, they are low mileage and generally well maintained.

First thing to do is locate the food
Second is to figure out who decides where the food goes
Third is to figure out what it costs them, in time and effort,
and fourth is to make sure that your operation is cheaper/easier than whatever it is they're doing now.
Most of the people I regularly pick up from were skeptical at first; but 5 years later they're clear that they can trust me to be there when I say I will, and that I'm committed to making this work.

Does that help any?

BigGAdawg said...

Yes it does and thanks for the info.

BTW, hope the deal goes thru on your new farm and everything works out well.