WE FINALLY SOLD THE BABY GOATS!!!
We had been trying to sell the baby goats since the beginning of June, and at last our herd is down to two goats. And I'm totally okay with that. Chores only take half as long because I don't have to hide the chicken feed and keep the kids distracted while I open and close gates.
I ended up selling the kids for less than half of what I thought they were worth to begin with. In talking to different potential buyers, I learned that they are more interested in shots, disbudding and price than they are about the goats being registered. I did not plan on doing shots because the goats were not in a dirty, confined environment with a ton of other goats, but potential buyers cared less about how the goats were raised and more that they had been given shots to be "healthy".
When all was said and done, the goats sold for only $25-$50 more than comparative non-registered goats. Registration is still a good investment if you keep in mind that it only costs $10.00 for each kid. However, my start up costs for being registered (membership $50.00, tattooing kit $38.50, transfer fees for Barry & Adi $12.00) were a little over $100.00 before I ever sold the kids. So if you are a farm on a shoestring budget, save registration for a couple years down the road. People told me that I would get $100.00 more for an animal with papers, but they didn't tell me when to sell, which was obviously more important.
I think I will keep on registering any does that Adi has in the future. Membership renewal is $25.00 per year, but ADGA does provide a lot of information, networking etc. that I think might be worth the money. Plus, if we get any does next year, I will sell them at the proper time (with proper disbudding/shots/etc.) and see if they are really worth $100.00 more than non-registered goats.
Adi and Barry are doing well. At the beginning of August, I decided to try out a weekly herbal wormer with Adi. I bought this one from Amazon. At first I tried just mixing it in her feed, but she didn't really like it that way. Then I followed the instructions to make dosage balls, which are 1) herbal wormer, 2) oat flour, and 3) peanut butter. After mixing it all together, you can store the balls in an airtight container in the fridge. One batch makes six balls, which will last me six weeks. When I gave one to Adi for the first time, she gobbled it up like candy. I know the peanut butter adds cost, but it is so much fun to watch her inhale her weekly treat.
Chickens... and Ducks!
Likewise, the chickens are doing well, especially now that the kid goats are not stealing feed anymore. We have only had one (non-violent) chicken loss since we built the coop.
At the beginning of August, we came home from the local 4-H livestock sale with three ducks; two male and one female. The female was an egg layer! When they learned that I was interested in keeping the ducks for egg production, the 4-H family offered us another laying duck. All we had to do was go and pick it up! So we now have four ducks. The only big difference between ducks and chickens is that ducks MUST have water to splash around in. I get a kick out of watching them play and clean themselves every morning.
At the end of August, egg production was down to 5-10 eggs per day, depending on the weather. We had an exceptionally hot summer, and after July raccoon attacks we were left with only 26 birds (not including the ducks). Out of the 26, there were 3-4 roosters, one "mystery layer" (it's a mystery where she will lay her eggs) and one or two hens that like to go broody (and thus, are not laying any eggs).
In addition to acquiring the ducks, I also bought/traded some Barred Rock chickens from my brother. A month ago I gave him some eggs to incubate in his new incubator, and he offered me three chicks (a certain percentage of those that hatched) in exchange. In addition to the three, I also purchased two more chicks from him. The chicks were about a month old when I got them. I really like the Barred Rocks because they are a good laying hen, but also have some meat on them if you intend to butcher.
My plan with the new chicks is to put leg bands on them, to keep track of how old they are in the coming years. When they get to be older and not laying as much, we will use them for stew hens. Right now with my mixed flock, I can't tell who is laying eggs and who isn't. I'm a little bit afraid to butcher any of them, lest I cut my egg production by 10-20%!
Profit & Loss
Chick Grower- $6.30 (I used a 10% off coupon!)
Herbal Wormer- $28.17
New chicks- $11.00
Total expenses: $45.47
Milk products: $24.00
Goat kids: $325.00
Total income: $371.00
Total net profit: $325.53
Year-to-date net profit: $382.45
I am excited about the future of our little hobby farm. At the end of August I saved my best duck eggs (and got some from the neighbor!) for my brother to incubate. If all works out, we should have some little ducklings hatching in September. I am going to see if I can butcher, and possibly sell them as Christmas ducks.
With three weeks of farmers market in September, I am pretty sure that we will have nearly $500.00 in the hobby farm pot in another month or so. This money will be needed to keep feeding the poultry and goats through the winter, when they will not be earning or even saving any money. I figure the chickens/ducks will eat about $50.00/mo. worth of feed starting in November, and the goats will be eating probably $20.00 worth of hay and grain during that time as well.
Five non-productive months x $70.00 = $350.00.
Sustainability of Doing a Farmers Market
So far, this year's farmers market experience has been 100% better than last (literally). My average net profit per week has been about $56.00. There is less work involved, and the work I do is more enjoyable. As I move along in my second year, I am still tweaking things to make them better. Next year my plan is to spend the month of May and possibly September at my expensive market ($20.00/wk), and work a more local, cheaper market ($5.00/wk) at least once a month during June, July, August, and possibly October (if the weather is nice).
May: $200.00 net profit
September: $200.00 net profit
Other months: $200.00 net profit
This $600.00 should easily cover the cost of my goats and poultry, especially now that I have bought all of the expensive kidding supplies. Therefore, I deem farmers markets a sustainable way to support a hobby farm. If your hobby farm is fully supported, it means that your family can eat the surplus completely for free. Which is pretty awesome.
Other Forms of Income
Out-the-door customers: are a lot less work than market customers. Some day I would love to have the customers coming to me instead of doing markets. However, at this point in time my OTD sales provide less than half of the funds needed to support the farm.
Craigslist baby animals: my baby goats brought in $325.00, which is enough to support mama and daddy goat for a whole year, plus some. I hope to sell more baby animals in the future, especially now that I have access to an incubator.
Writing books: This year I am starting to see some money trickle in each month from my Amazon books. In the future I would like to write a series about frugal/sustainable hobby farming and put the proceeds right back into my own hobby farm.
Etsy store: So far my Etsy store hasn't sold anything farm-related. But it is something I'd like to put a little more effort into before I call it quits. As mentioned before, I would love to move away from the market model so I have fewer customers to deal with.
Til next time,
*Oh yes- I did not count the cost of the ducks in this month's P&L because Hubs' business bought them. A 4-H auction is not really a place to find bargain animals. Our ducks cost over $100.00 each. The going rate for non-4-H full grown ducks is about $10.00-$20.00 each, but you can also buy ducklings during the spring for $5.00 or so each.