Eight months ago we did the unthinkable. We listed our farm for sale, the simple reason being :business was too good and it was killing us. Read all about the sale here
When our four children left home and decided farm ownership was not their preference, (what can I say? They are very bright children) we had two choices, or so we thought. Hire staff and continue growing our organic dairy, beef and pork farm OR sell the whole thing down to the last ground burger pattie in our farm store, and start all over on a tiny homestead growing just enough for the two of us; living off the grid was what we wanted, a long time dream.
|Home on the range, our pastured cows enjoy|
the outdoors even at end November
But, with only one serious looker (who never called back so don't know why I referred to her as "serious") it appears that many folks love the IDEA of running their own farm but due to lack of time/money/ initiative they would rather we continue the work part while they continue the purchasing part.
We understand. I like driving our new (used) Ford F-150 but I don't want to start manufacturing them.
So, after some time, we discover...option three; downsizing right here. It may be awhile until the right buyer finds South Pork Ranch and wishes to make it their dream, so while we work to make that connection we begin to say Sayonara to some of the most work intensive/costly parts of the farm. We're not sure if and how it can be done here. The house is big and inefficient, the animals are many, and the debt is high as is sadly common with most farm operations. So how do we downsize to a manageable work load while bringing in enough income for mortgage/feed/land rental etc.? Which should come first. the chicken or the egg?
We say the cow.
Our dairy is the most costly part of our farm. We do not grow our own hay or grain and must purchase it and then pay to have it hauled to us. Certified organic hay, grain and now straw, is not cheap. Keith milks 18 cows and we raise their offspring for replacement cows and beef sales, abput 60 head of cattle all told. That's a lot of hay.
Our first goal: to reduce the milking herd from 18 to 5 by June. Five cows will give us enough milk to continue our raw milk sales, even allowing for a few new customers, which average about $1500 per month, and provide us with all the milk we need personally. It will also provide us with enough to continue feeding our hogs which are more profitable than our dairy.
|A Farmer and his Girls|
But here comes the tough part. How to decide which cow goes and when? Should we require each Bossy to reapply for her own job or just rely on the good old background check? Perhaps a "Cow-Cam" placed strategically in the free stall area of the barn will highlight the worst behaved cows and make our decision to ship them, easier. A few will be available for sale as family milk cows. Gentle and kind, used to daily human contact they are great backyard cows, but the majority will go to the locker a few at a time to be made into nutritious organic burger .
With each cow gone there will be less manure to scrape and spread, less hay to feed, less repairs in the barn, less fencing to fix, less cleanup in the milk parlor, less flies in the hot sticky summer.
There will also be less of those kind creatures who helped us build our farm, and teach our children about the benefits of hard work, (we taught them so well they said "No Thanks!") Less to show to customers children who visit, less of the bloodlines we worked hard to expand and improve upon.
Less sweet calves with the big brown eyes.
PS. About that snow. Yeah we got a couple inches, lots of wind and a cold night but nothing to cry about. Damn Midwest Alarmists