Thursday, July 07, 2005

Diversity is Not Enough

Several years ago I came to the conclusion that our farm needed to become more diversified. In my quest for a diversity I made a few mistakes that I would like to share. The first thing I did was put sheep up on the hill. My parents then added a meat goat herd down on the main farm. Both of these additions produced a marketable product. We sold lamb and wool and kid goats. The main problem was, and I didn't really realize it until I read Family Friendly Farming, was that these enterprises were competing against each other and the dairy. They all needed the same pastures, hay, and grain that the cows needed. When hay got short the sheep and goats were robbing the main income producers of the most important input. The goats were in a barn that could be used for calves and the sheep were testing my ability to do 3 things at once. What was ment to help our farm was really hurting it. The sheep left 2 years ago and the last of the meat goats left this year. When Herrick loaned me Salatins book(which I will be returning shortly) I finally started to realize the fact that they were competing enterprises. As I read Joel's thoughts on complimentary enterprises, I had to shut the book and take a deep breath followed by a hearty "why didn't I think of that". Now I have grand plans for incorporating chickens into our dairy operation. Chickens like the short grass that the cows have grazed down. They eat fly larvae and scratch out the cow pies for better fertilizer. They work with the cows and the cows benefit from them. What a concept! I am presently using chickens to prepare future garden spots for market produce. I was prepared to go full bore with meat birds this year. However, when I got the opportunity to go to Salatin's this year I decided to just raise some for ourselves this year. Part of the money we had to buy chickens will pay for our trip and I also want to see the Joel's system in action before I fly off half cocked into something new. We have raised pastured broilers in "chicken tractors" before but I'm more interested in what he has to say about marketing. I also have decided that I need to expand my egg sales before I start anything new. Right now we have more eggs than we are selling. This next week we will be getting some Cornish rock crosses, a smaller box than we had originally planned.

5 Comments:

At 7/07/2005 6:30 AM, Anonymous Keith said...

Hello from a like-minded lurker,

I've been enjoying your blog for some time now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the encouragement they provide. My family and I will be at the Salatin's field day and I hope to have an opportunity to say hello. At this point we are taking baby steps with the farm and are basically sponges trying to absorb as much good information as possible. It will be many years before I will be able to wean myself off of my current "job", but I am looking forward to the journey.

 
At 7/07/2005 8:30 AM, Blogger KSmilkmaid said...

I haven't read the book you mentioned here. We have layers free ranging too. We have about thirty or so. We can't keep eggs stocked. We keep our prices low, perhaps to low, but our milk customers buy the eggs too. One great marketing technique is prayer. I had too much butter on hand at the beginning of this year. It was taking up too much room in the freezer. I prayed and ask God to bring people along that could benefit from the butter and people I could serve for His glory. I can't keep it stocked either. On the competing issue: For a farmstead creamery sheep and goats actually can help. I had a few goats earlier this year. I would take the goat milk and blend it with separated cows milk. I could use it to return fat to the skimmed cows milk. I didn't have to waste the cows milk that away. The hidden benefit was goat's milk is naturally homogenized. It also assisted the cheese in aging faster. It has a more pungent flavor and requires less aging. It was a wonderful addition to the farm. Sheep milk is also good for cheesemaking. There are many speciality and niche markets out there for this type of milk/cheese. I did sell my goats because our business boomed, I had a six month old baby etc. I really wish I had not done that. But, the grazing issue is something worthy of considering. I will post a link to two dairies who sell cheese. One is in NY, the other NJ. Best of wishes!

 
At 7/07/2005 5:15 PM, Blogger reformed farmer said...

Keith

Glad to have you as a reader, thank you. I look forward to meeting you at the Salatins.

Milkmaid

Thanks for the input. Always enjoy your comments. Praying should be part of every marketing plan, I agree. I would highly recomend Family Friendly Farming, I think you would enjoy it.

 
At 7/08/2005 8:21 PM, Blogger JM said...

Scott,

Loved your post. Diversity isn't enough, but you've got a great jump on the monoculture competition. I've developed a midwestern version of Pasture Poultry with I hope to be detailing on my website soon...
I've been doing some consulting in this area and that seems to be quite enjoyable for me.

Enjoy Polyface!

 
At 10/05/2005 4:12 PM, Blogger Walter Jeffries said...

We raise pigs, sheep, chickens and ducks on pasture. They are very complementary and can all graze together. The sheep are gradually reclaiming the pastures from the brush with the assistance of the pigs. Each works on different things. The chickens eat bugs, break up poops and smooth things back out. In the winter we put the animals in garden corrals where they fertilize our poor soils making new gardens within a couple of years. The pigs do all the rototilling, the chickens then come in and preweed the gardens so I don't have to weed them all summer long. I like that. This minimizes our needs for petro and off farm resources. Although I don't turn up my nose at free food such as we get from the dairy (excess milk and cheese trim).

 

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