Sunday, January 15, 2012

Make the Right Livestock Purchases based on Investment Thinking as a Homesteader



I hear these statement so often from farmers and potential farm folks 
who are looking to purchase livestock:

"Oh, I'm not breeding for show"
"Not needing registered animals"  
or
 "not breeding for anything but pet quality,"
 and over and over it plays.

I sigh and think, "What does this even mean?"

I am not suggesting you cannot own pet quality livestock 
simply for the joy of their companionship, if they end up in need and you can provide a farm home, then go for it. . .

That is where it should end - if your intention is to breed livestock, then
you cannot cut corners on the quality 
of animals you're breeding. 

Why do so many people try to find the cheapest animal they can? 

Well, they erroneously believe they are saving money.

Good care is expensive, so if you're looking to do things cheaply, 
homesteading isn't a good idea.

Remember - a cheap animal has a reason for the price, just as those
more expensive animals have a reason for the price. You can find quality animals
with an occasional deal, but searching for a good deal on excellent stock 
should only come once you know your breed standard and what
to look for, and that is typically a few years down the road from the beginning.

I once was one of those "cut corners to save a buck" people few years ago,
 so believe me when I tell you, save yourself a lot of time/money
 and avoid it from the start. 

Why would you not want to breed the best animal you possibly can? 

Realize that You cannot hope to break even when the care for poor quality animals and nice quality costs the same. . .but the latter will not return near what the nice animals will. Your offspring will usually not grow as well, produce as much or bring as much if sold (I've found folks say they will not sell at all). Those you do sell will go to those looking to cut corners more often than to excellent, conscience buyers, and sometimes, that will mean care that isn't satisfactory or at least not knowledgeable. 


The pet market is always gluttoned with inferior livestock
 that cannot serve any purpose extremely well, even in a market where meat is the end line.

Even if you give the utmost attention 
to quality, you will still end up with a large percentage
of animals that do not meet breed standard, but at least these animals will usually have some solid merits for their type.


If you're raising livestock, take it seriously, and do try to
breed for the best. 

It is fairly irresponsible to not try to breed 
animals that improve over generations, in my opinion. 

The pet market has no function in the 
farm world.

We have no business raising livestock simply to produce cull sale barn animals.

 Even if breeding for meat animals only what you do from your homestead,  If you're only known as that farmer who sells only cull type animals, 
why on earth would anyone want to purchase your meats, your products 
or recommend your farm?  Are folks going to assume you put your ALL into your farm if you
do not care about how the quality and merits of the livestock?

Take Goats, for instance:

The most important aspect of pet/subpar quality
verses breed stock quality livestock to remember is
that it is going to cost essentially as much to correctly feed
that unregistered, cross bred goat with poor udder attachment and disease exposure from a sale barn as it will a nice, registered Saanen with good attachment and a milk record
behind her who is disease free.

 While that poor goat is bred to some
random buck you find locally of indeterminable breeding
and gives you kids you cannot register or sell for more than $75 ea,
 doelings you can have little expectations of much milk production from
and bucks that will always need wethered without
any idea as to how well they will grow and reach market size, 
that nice doe would be giving you kids that - if marketed right - 
will bring at least $350, be much more predictable in type and production with
a steady size you can expect to achieve on wethers
and bucks you can sometimes, if you're selective, use to
improve your herd and others' herds. 

Many newer farm folk look
at their initial investment in livestock and think they are
saving money buying the $125 craigslist special
 over the $600 ADGA Saanen (or whatever actual breed) with
star milkers, Superior Genetics labeling, 
CH sire with excellent conformation.

Rarely, if ever, is this the case.


You will have a dairy doe for a production life, if you're serious
about dairy animals, for at least 10 years, so let us see how much
your doe from Craiglist saved you over 9 years, averaging
2 kids per freshening, factoring in health issues and milk production, 
(without regard to care costs or milk used by you):

#1 Craiglist Doe $150
+ $100 buck purchase 
2 kids
sold with horns on Craiglist
- $100 x 2
teats too small to hand milk
so kids dam raised, doe dried off when kids are sold
= negative - $50 the first year


#2 Breed Quality Doe $600
+ $150 stud fee to Finished buck
2 kids
properly disbudded, tattooed  and 
sold with ADGA registration applications
- $350 x 2
= $50 credit the first year

plus have now built a tiny buyer base who should be pleased with
your stock and might recommend you to others, saying what nice animals you raise. . . 


Wait, you have actually come out already ahead
with $50 in less than a year of ownership!

Of course, then factor in feed and medical costs,
and you're in the hole, either way, but you are less so. ..

Say you live in a state where herd shares are possible,
The nice Saanen doe peaks at 16 lbs of milk a day because of the
attention to production her lineage was given

The Craiglist doe has teats too small
to milk, and even when you tried it, she seemed to give
2 pints a day, even though she was supposed
to have Saanen in her. 

You gave up. You sell her for $75 to the first buyer who shows up where that cycle
starts over for the poor doe.

With the nice Saanen, You sell herd shares and receive $10 a gallon
and you make $100 a week on the 10 gallons 
of milk you have weekly.

 You still have feed costs and health costs,
but things are looking up, and you're actually an active part of a strong local food system now. 

If you convert the milk into soap,
market it well, your profit would be higher still, and you've offset
your grocery bill at home.

Now, sit down and calculate this over
10 years of production. Do not forget
that after 10 years, with quality animals,
you should have offspring you've retained that
have improved in type and build your farm's
reputation for quality. After 9 years with
poor quality animals. . .you've either long
since thrown in the towel or have few 
repeat customers and are so far in the hole
in what you thought was a good deal, you do 
not even take stock of your losses.


Do we buy our farm with land that clearly cannot 
support what we need out of it, a home that cannot contain the family we have, 
a location that doesn't give us reasonable access to whatever we need

If we want a start a small business, do we try our best to sabotage 
ourselves before we begin by putting ourselves in a poor location, 
doing no marketing,  doing anything less than stellar performance when we have the chance 
to show how good we are in our niche? 

Of course not.

So why try to cut corners when buying livestock, even if they are just provide milk for our family?

No animal is perfect, and the sky isn't always the limit.

We cannot all afford the finest quality, but if we truly cannot afford
good quality, we need to evaluate whether we can
even afford to give the animal a standard of care it must have, and if
we are honest and cannot invest in good breed stock, we aren't ready
to own the said animals.

By catering to bottom of the barrel buyers, you are throwing money away 
and producing animals to glutton a market and make the sales of good animals more difficult. 

Also, remember flashy colors do not quality animals make. . .
Blue eyes and spots mean nothing, and they should never, ever drive
your purchase. Fad breeds aren't usually wise, either. 

People say things like, "You can't milk papers," but in some ways, You certainly can. 

By buying and maintaining registrations with the ADGA, 
you can tell if the animal's lineage was
on DHIR (milk test showing proven production and transmittable ), how well the animals behind your's produced, how the kids will likely produce,
how long they carry production over time and then you know what to expect from your doe, your buck, kids and so forth.

The registry will have provide you the ability to see the Linear Appraisal
of the animals behind your purchase and know the strengths, the udder traits, 
the body traits that facilitate good production and more. 

Solid Structure on an animal is not about being pretty to an untrained eye. Is is about longevity and production levels. The body looks correct and the body will produce better when it is packaged right.

Remember, registered does not mean quality, but it gives you a LOT of information to determine quality level.

If a breeder is not willing to deal
in registered animals, how many of them have given that same lack of attention to
 breed type, disbudding kids, disease and bio-security
and a plethora of other important aspects to livestock husbandry. . . because unregistered kids have so little value, was it worth their while to bother?

For instance:
Take this Superior Genetics, Champion Nubian doe who would have 
cost at least several thousand dollars from Saada Dairy Goats from quite a few years back:



Compare her to the does you will see
for $100 on craiglist or local online classifieds
(this poor doeling was listed as a Purebred Nubian 
- she is clearly an Alpine/Pygmy cross)


Buying quality animals will mean much less if you do
not strive to improve the herd, learn the ideal conformation, follow standard
husbandry practices and market your livestock.

This means, if you have dairy goats, for instance,
work toward taking part in Linear Appraisal and DHIR,
keeping up with records and paperwork for registering,
tattooing, disbudding, disease testing, bio-security measures,
milking the does for their entire lactations, feeding correct rations,
keeping up with hoof trimming, giving proper minerals and having
a working parasite management system, among other things.

As an ending note, years back, I wanted Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, and I purchased some eggs to hatch that were cheap from someone who didn't care about the quality of their birds:

This is what I ended up with. . .


I then made the 3 hour drive, investing a fair sum, in exhibition bred
Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. . .

Do they even look like the same breed to you?



There was no way to compare the two. It 
was like an entirely different breed, but in fact,
it just shows the difference in poor and excellent quality.

Those BLRW from Foley's produced enough egg
and chick sales to pay for themselves 100 times over, as have the Silver Laced Wyandottes from the same breeder, for many years. And I've been able to be part of bringing correct in type birds into the area and maintaining them for many years.

While this has been a long read, for those that
stuck it out, Try to have goals before you breed. Do not breed without a commitment and concern to the type you're raising. This is one solid step you will never come to regret. 



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Directions change and more of the same. . .

On Tuesday morning we said goodbye to our darlin'
Jersey, Stella. This makes one of the first huge
changes we've made since this farming thing began
in 2008 due to lack of proper planning, and it was a rough one.


We purchased Stella without thinking things through,
assuming we knew more than we really did
and waited 2.5 years to wake up and realize
a Jersey cow didn't belong on 23 acres of
hillside in West Virginia.

So our darlin' Stella has made her way
to a vastly larger farm in Milton, WV
~ Twin Maples and Simply LLamas Farm ~

Stella will join other Jerseys and be part
of a program breeding Miniature Jerseys.

We will be bringing in a lovely little Red Dexter heifer much
more suited from Twin Maples to our little hillside farm.



Our Anya went off to the same farm to be bred since it
appears since her purchase that her previous breeding did not
take, and she will come back in a few months, hopefully,
to calve in the fall with what will be our fist calf born here!


Speaking of cows, doing countless horse rescue might have a perk,
though I use the word might since I don't know the whole story
yet, but I received a call from an animal control officer
regarding a cow/calf pair wandering in a local county,
and we've been asked to take them.

This might just cover a portion of the winter hay feeding costs IF - 
BIG IF - the cow is in reasonably fair shape and we can catch the pair
tomorrow. Keep that event in your "add on" prayers tonight!


~ ~ ~

Those that have followed the blog or Facebook farm page since last winter might
remember what an awful kidding year we had due to kids being overly large.

I don't expect such a disaster this year, but we did start kidding our
with a premature birth that resulted in a stillborn doeling and very weak buckling.


Thankfully, we brought him in and have him doing very well now on the bottle.
He was due on Christmas eve, was born a week early and we dubbed him
Rudy! His dam, Avalon, is a first freshening Nigerian Dwarf, and she is producing
very well for a FF Nigi, giving 1.5 quarts a day. 


Her udder is well attached, teats are a good size, albeit the placement could be better
and I'm happy all around with how she has turned out!


On another note, I've mentioned before, but we have two
Great Pyrenees that I adore, but they are poor livestock guards.


Carly and Kyla have actually sat and watched Fox run off with
chickens and let stray dogs come right up to the house without a
as much as a yip. Yesterday, a friend and dog rescuer called
about a beautiful, kind Male Pyr in a high kill shelter a few counties
over, and I believe we might bring him in and see what kind of job
he does. If he doesn't work out, we'll at least place him well and see
him safe.


Until next time. . . folks, stay warm out there










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LUCAS FARM

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens

- Proverbs 27:23-27




"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares."

- George Washington