Took these photos this afternoon on a balmy 63 degree day! Suppossed to turn cold and rain tomorrow. So good to see our animals still muncing on tall (enough) grass after our horrible summer drought. The rains we had last month were amazing.
If you read my post on Tuesday you know I'm on a beef binge this week, coming on the heels of pork pricing last month. After beef we'll plunge into the dairy and our raw milk business, the farm store, etc...
We might actually get thru this by Jan. 1 !
It feels good to have a plan, as we've been flying by the seat of our pants for years. Yeah, just call me Peter Pan. As our business grew and grew we had less time to evaluate what was working and what wasn't. And it's not that we have MORE time now to do so, it is only that we have finally made it the priority it needs to be.
So, back to beef. In the last 10 months we sent 30 head to the locker...no wait, the "Abattoir" .(Yes, that was for you Cro.) 24 of those were steers or heifers turned to beef ( 12.75 of those went into our store) and the remaining six were "cull" cows. For you high falutin' city types, a Cull cow is an older cow who know longer is doing well as a milk cow. Because of her age, (facial wrinkles, varicose veins, etc...) steaks and roasts are generally not as good so the entire carcass is made into some very excellent ground beef.
As folks learned of our farm and the fact that we are the only certified organic, 100% grass fed dairy and beef producer in several counties, we have been able to Pre-sell another 16 into 2013. However, we have over the last 18 months decreased our milking herd by 50%. (I'll explain why when we get into the dairy part of this budget process)
Less cows means less calves so how do we meet the increasing need for beef?
Well, we buy from other organic dairy farmers with extra calves. The nearest we have found is located at the tip of northern Illinois, about 180 miles from us one way) We are fortunate enough that they are expecting an EXCESS of calves. Good news for us.
Now, all is left is to figure out what it costs us to raise these little guys and gals into big steaks and roasts. The process to do so was tedious, but not actual rocket science. We identified all direct costs like housing, hay, bedding, minerals, vet care, etc..The biggest direct cost was processing.
The customer who buys a quarter, half or whole beef from us pays their own processing but when an animal is designated to be sold in our farm store, we pay the processing...and boy, do we pay. For the 12.75 animals that made up our stores beef supply in 2012 we paid the locker $7,548.73 , or $592 per animal. This includes labeling, packaging and weighing.
With the average HANGING WEIGHT of a full beef being 500 pounds, that means we pay $1.18 per pound for packaging alone. It's a hefty hunk we have no control over. We could have our beef processed at a non -organic locker but then we could not legally put the organic label on the package even though the meat is certified organic. But our customers want that label, that assurance that the meat is organic from beginning to end, therefore we process 90% of our beef at the organic locker in Eureka.
Next week sometime, I'll share other beef related costs with you, specifically the non-direct costs like marketing, truck insurance, and then show you how we came up with our final numbers in regards to what it actually costs us to raise that pound of ground. I know this data can be dry and dull but maybe some of you newer pasture type farmers can learn from the process.
We certainly are.
PS Last week I blew it for Saponification Sunday. Tomorrow, I won't let you down. Cross my heart and hope to lye.