Fail #1 on the farm this month was a raccoon infestation. We had one chicken die of old age, and at least one chicken plus one duck get eaten by raccoons. There was also a good amount of feed wasted/eaten by raccoons. Thankfully the raccoon traps have been doing their job and we have not lost any more animals to critters. I started tying down my trash can lids (I use tin trash cans for feed storage) so there hasn't been more feed wasted, either.
Right now we have 22 birds; three ducks (a female and two males), three roosters and 16 laying hens. I'm feeding four pounds of feed per day ($0.66) and getting about 11 eggs per day. According to the cost of feed, I'm paying about $0.72/dozen for eggs. For the amount of birds we have, I'm impressed that the chickens are still laying as well as they were this Spring. It proves that most of the birds that died over the past few months were NOT laying eggs.
And for the GOOD NEWS: Broody hens! I have two broody hens right now. One is just a nuisance (she switches nests and makes me fight for all the eggs), but I think the other broody hen will be successful. Both broodies are bantams or bantam cross-breeds. My successful broody hen is actually in with Adi, away from the other chickens (she and one rooster prefer to be with the goats). She is a bantam/barred rock cross and was hen-raised herself. The nuisance broody hen still prefers to be in the chicken coop. This creates a problem because she's not sitting on HER OWN eggs, but on whatever pile she can find. That is, the eggs I want to eat for breakfast every morning. I've tried moving her over with the goats, but she always finds a way to get back in with the others. I'm going to keep trying to separate her.
The goats are doing well. Adi's milk production has gone down a little, and now she's giving about three cups per day. I'm feeding her about 1.5 pounds of grain per day ($0.21), so my cost for a gallon of goat's milk is about $1.12 per gallon. That's really cheap for specialty milk, but it's technically free for me because I sold those cute little goat kids to pay for mama's feed.
It's important that I keep track of milk production and feed consumption so I know when to stop milking Adi. As long as she's milking, I'm going to feed as much grain as she will eat while she's on the stand. Eventually it will get to the point where I'm feeding 1/2-1 lb. per day, but getting less than a gallon of milk per week. At that point it's not really worth milking her anymore.
I have a limited budget in 2017 for goat feed (not counting on farmers market to cover costs), so I'll need to be careful about how long I keep milking. When I stop milking I can cut back on grain, eventually stopping it completely until winter. This will obviously help with expenses for a few months. Last year I stopped milking in October I believe, but this year I may quit earlier.
Barry is doing great on his little field adjacent to Adi's. He has been eating primarily pasture since Adi's kids were born at the beginning of April, and he spends his days happily munching away. I'll start feeding him grain in October when I put the two goats back together.
My market strawberry patch is doing pretty well. Except a bunch of deer have been eating my plants!!! My in-laws (brother-in-law has some plants beside mine) put up a fence and some scarecrows in an effort to scare away the deer. I think it's working.
I have been keeping strawberry expenditures separate from hobby farm expenses because it's a separate project. However, it WILL be replacing farmers market income next year, so I thought I should write about it in the hobby farm post. I paid $54.00 for plants, with the expectation that I would pick strawberries for the neighbor lady and earn enough to cover the plants. I ended up earning $60.00, so I put the excess amount into the P & L "income" category.
Farmers Market Fail
My final fail of the month was a Thursday night market that I signed up for. I went through my usual routine, bringing all of my usual items and setting up the booth as usual, but in a different location at a different time. I ended up selling less than half of what I usually sell, even though my costs to attend the market were higher because it was supposed to be a "special" market.
Normally when I do the P&L, I count on baked goods to cover market expenses (booth fee, gas, etc.). Then whatever I make on farm products (eggs, soap, fiber, books, etc.) can go straight into my farm income. This has worked well for every market so far. However, for the Thursday market I actually LOST $4.75 when all was said and done. I wasn't sure how to put this on the P&L. What I ended up doing was listing farm income as usual (I like to know how many bars of soap, etc. that I sell each year) and then listing what costs the baked goods didn't cover as an "expense".
For those of you interested in doing farmers markets, I've started a special playlist on my Youtube channel. If you want to watch me work my tail off to earn $0.00, see the Youtube video below:
Milk products- $10.00
Strawberry picking- $6.00
Total income: $40.00
Layer mash- $22.00
Farmers market costs- $24.48
Goat mineral- $8.99
Total expenses: $68.96
Net profit: ($28.96)
Year-to-date net profit: $118.89
I guess we've started going backward in profit again! Time to start pinching pennies.
Cutting Costs on the Farm
One way I saved money this month was by using a 10% off coupon at TSC for boots and goat mineral. Total savings were only $2.50, but all I had to do was time my purchases with the coupon (which comes out in a mailer every three months). I did this last time when I stocked up on goat feed.
Some other things I've done are 1) tried my hand at making silage with grass cuttings... we'll see how that turns out this winter! I've also 2) started growing some mangels (large beets) for animal fodder. I am going to do another crop of beets this fall.
I am very happy with the goat costs. Currently, feed is only costing $0.15 per day. It's the chicken expenses that really add up. Right now I'm feeding 20 birds two lbs. of layer mash and two lbs. of corn at a total cost of $0.66 per day. This is actually a little less than conventional wisdom suggests (4 oz. per bird).
$0.66/day x 30 days= $19.80 per month on chicken feed
Thankfully I can count on $8.00-$12.00 every month from egg sales, but that is still cutting it close when you count "other" farm costs that are bound to come up. Projects for the coming months will include processing a few more chickens/ducks and researching more free chicken feed ideas.
Til next time,