Every animal or plant had to benefit the farm and our budget.
The first thing we decided was that if it didn’t serve a purpose it didn’t need to exist. It all started with chickens. My wife wanted to get her own eggs. Cheap enough I thought. Then I tracked feed costs and time spent. I decided that it certainly was better than buying eggs from unethically kept chickens, but remember the end must justify the means. We cut feed cost by giving the chickens kitchen scraps and by free ranging. We got our total egg cost down to less than $.04 per egg. Worth it for sure.
Then we moved to meat chickens. After a few trial and error batches of birds I was able to get the cost down to $2.40 per bird at processing day. Those same birds sold for $11-$15 each depending on the size. Worth it?? Maybe not highly profitable, but certainly better than losing money. Overall the meat chickens and eggs bring us a small profit every year.
I personally believe chickens can be the single most profitable animal on the farm. You can hatch your own, eat their eggs, and eat them for meat. They will eat anything, and in summer can get up to 85% of the feed just from free ranging.
Then came goats….not so worth it, but lets take a deeper look. We maintain a small herd of dairy goats. There is one buck, one wether (neutered male), and 4 does. We spend over $1000 a year on feed, and we make $0 a year on anything they produce. We do save on milk costs for 8 months a year. We also save on gas. We mow a lot less. The goats pretty much keep the pastures in check, along with the wood lined edges. This saves me on gas for my equipment as well as my time. In the long run the goats do contribute to the farm.
Over the past few years there have been other animals that just didn’t make the grade. Sometimes the reason is feed cost versus return. Sometimes it is simply cost to get started, and sometimes it is just a time constraint. Whatever the animal or process is if it doesn’t contribute in a positive fashion it doesn’t live or grow on our farm.
In wrapping up Rule #1 it is important to remember the big picture. Growing produce might not make you money if you don’t sell it, but if you eat it your monthly grocery budget will shrink. Not every endeavor will put cash in your pocket, but at the end of the year it may still be profitable.
Keep a lookout for Rule #2 Blog. Hopefully posted by early next week.!!