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. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

first pigs on the new farm

New pigs for a new farm.   This location is central to several fields, so it'll be the pigs home base.  I'll run fencing from here to various areas that they'll graze on.  

The pen is pretty simple; hog panels connected with torsion screws that I made from pieces of high-tensile wire.  I re-use these panels for years, so having a simple solution for connecting them that doesnt damage the panel is good. 

This fence isn't particulary sturdy - the little pigs won't push on it much as long as everything they need is inside the pen.  Full feeders, automatic waterer, and plenty of buddies makes for content weaners.  

Later I'll run my electric fence inside this physical barrier to teach the pigs to avoid it, and then they'll be ready to start rotationally grazing.  

The weather is just starting to warm up, the grass is growing, but we haven't hit the spring growth spurt yet.