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Discussion Starter #1
Ok, so as promised I have gathered some info from my various broiler experiments over this summer and will post some findings here. I know some of you have read previous post, but for those new I will recap a few items. I raised one bunch of 15 CR (Cornish Rock) and 15 RR (Red Rangers) earlier in the summer. What I found was I had very few deaths contrary to much of what you read about the CR. I lost one as a chick and I killed a few due to poor tractor designs. I raised the first batch to almost 11 weeks, not on purpose, but time just got away from me. I had many birds go over 8#'s in that batch. other than the large birds, I did not have any other issues. They all were still mobile and I did not see any obvious signs of stress, with the exception of 1 bird. I was away from home and my daughter said one CR could not get up so I had them go ahead and kill it, but I did not see it, so I can not be sure if it really was an issue or maybe she overreacted a bit?? I just do not know, but none the less, all the rest were healthy. I also did not see the enlarged organs as some have reported. they were in tractors moved around on grass and feed a normal chick grower from the co-op. I fed them in the evening only enough so they would have no feed left by the morning. I had many CR breast over 1# and the biggest RR breast was around 3/4#. The RR were noticeably smaller than the CR and a few pounds lighter on average, but still decent birds.

We just put our final batch of the year in the freezer. 64 birds in all. I kept 9 alive for breeding. We started with 25 CR (I kept 3) and 50 RR (I kept 6) They were fed the same co-op feed which was just over 20% if memory serves me and the average price per bag was around $14.00. Here are the numbers.
- CR averaged weight gain of 1#, per 2.6# of feed
- RR averaged weight gain of 1#, per 3# of feed
- 21 CR had a total carcass weight of around 151#. That is 21 carcasses and adding in the estimated carcass weight of the 3 we kept also.
- 41 RR had a total carcass weight of 230#. That is 41 carcasses and the added estimated weight of the ones we kept alive also.
- CR ate 8 bags of feed
- RR ate 14 bags of feed. Please note. I still only gave the CR feed for 1/2 the day. I tried to keep feed out for the RR all the time, so we did raise these different than the first batch in that respect. Otherwise, same grass, same space per bird etc. all the same.
- Total 381# of whole birds before cutting them up.
- Total 172# packaged meat after cut up. This included boneless skinless breast, tenders, legs, thighs and wings. No backs, back bones or breast bones, just to be clear.
- Extras: we boiled the left over carcasses and had 17# or meat or so and 20 gallons of broth, which we packaged approx 1/2# of meat and 1/2 gallon of broth in ziplock bags for soup stock. I gave the boiled bones to the dogs and pigs, but they were unable to get an accurate count of how many they actually were???
- CR approx. chick cost was $45.75
- RR approx chick cost was $127.50
- Total chick cost $173.25
- Total feed cost approx $330.00 at $14.00 per bag with 7% tax
- propane for scalding $20.00
- Bags etc. for packaging approx. $15.00 (purchased for Cornerstone)
So what does that all add up to.
Total cost including processing cost, no labor $518.25, basically $520.00
Total packaged sell-able meat (cut up)172#
Total if sold whole would be 381#
Based on cut price that will be approx. $3.00 per pound my cost.
Based on whole chickens it will be approx. $1.36 per pound my cost.

I will not go into it all here, but I have run some numbers if I had used all CR and it looks much better. Considering the cheaper cost of the CR chicks and the better weight gain per pound of feed, I believe I can raise the CR and get an average cut up cost of around $2.36 per pound. I also figured using non-gmo feed at $19.00 per bag (that is the price I have found it close by) and still be able to raise them in the $2.50 range. That leaves me pretty confident I can sell cut up chicken and average $5.00 per pound and make a slight profit for my labor.

I may ad some more info later, but that seems like a lot for now to think over. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try and provide an answer if I can. I hope this info. helps some of you thinking of raising some broilers next spring either for yourself or for market. I honestly believe these are very accurate number I have provided. All the above info. is based on my actual prices and weights, not just estimates on paper.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
A little more info. The second batch which all of the info. is based on were 8 weeks old. I also forgot to account for the livers and gizzards and hearts which we also kept and I do not have a weight on that, but it was plenty, several gallons I would estimate total.
Hope this helps.
 

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What kind of processing equipment did you factor in for
cost?

Can you really expect to sell for $5 a pound?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I do not factor in my processing equipment. I paid for my processing equipment over time from an outside job. The same way as a person does not take a job in town then say "If it cannot pay for my car to get there, before I take the job, then it is not worth it". Some things require an initial investment. Over time you will recuperate some of the investment, maybe all of it and hopefully the equipment will also retain much of the equity you put into it. Quality equipment will actually gain equity.

To answer your question more directly here is what I have. A home made S.S. Whizbang chicken plucker $1000.00 (I have a previous post on this build, search Whizbang), a S.S table and sink from CL that was $200.00, kill cones on a homemade wooden stand $75.00 ebay, various knifes, ring pliers, meat totes, lung removal tool, plastic bages etc. from Cornerstone mainly, probably $500.00 or so. various large plastic totes for chill water from Walmart, maybe $50.00.

Can I sell $5.00 a pound chicken?? I believe so. I have had numerous request over the last year and several people disappointed I was not offering any for sale this year. Is it a limited market, Yes. Can you compete with grocery store prices? NO, and a person would be a fool to try. I am not offering the same product as the grocery store, so why would I offer a different product at the same price?? Would you sell a Mercedes at the same price as a Yugo?? I mean they are both cars right? So, can one really be worth that much more?? Can there really be that much of a difference in quality between basically two cars?? I will let you decide that!

Look, folks, keep in mind, most people will think your stuff is too high. Most people are academically concerned about food quality, but when it comes down to it they are really not concerned enough to do different than what they are doing already. They simply want to act like they care, because it is PC to be health conscious. However, there is a small portion of the population who is educated enough to know there is a difference and willing to pay for what they want. They really do care about their health. These are the people you need to deal with if you are going to make a small farm profitable. The truth is there are some customers you simply do not want. That person who tells you they can buy .49 cent chicken on sale will never buy your chicken, they care more about their pocket book than their health, no matter what they talk about.

If you are a person who is only looking at farming as a way to stay at home and make money from rich people who will buy overpriced products and you do not honestly believe you are producing a better product then you probably should just keep day job and forget about farming for profit. If animal welfare is of no concern to you, do not waste your time attempting to grow your own. If the sustainability of CAFO farming operations is of little concern to you, again, do not waste your time, you will be disappointed in the outcome and in a short while you will join the thousands of others who jump into this way of life only to get out a short while later and complain that there is just no way to make small farming profitable. The real interpretation will be " I never really believed in the whole idea and was unwilling to make the adjustments in my lifestyle necessary to make it work".

I believe in the quality of the product I am producing. If there are others who understand food quality and are willing top pay me for my time to produce quality food for their family also, then I will. If not. Then I will pay my bills with an outside job and continue producing high quality food for my family. I will not be the person selling $5.00 a pound chicken then taking my profits and going to the store and buying .49 cent chicken on sale. I know the difference and I believe in what I am doing. You will need to find like minded people, who have taken the time to educate themselves about food, in order to make a small farming business work.

Lets look at some more numbers. How many of you are there? 1, you have a wife or husband, so maybe 2. How many chickens can you honestly produce per year?? be honest!! I can tell you from experience, for 2 people 25 chickens is a good day. So lets say you do that once every 2 weeks? That will be 50 chickens per month? lets say you are able to do this 6 months out of the year where you live. Winter is a difficult time to raise chickens. So now we are producing what? 300 chicken per year?? You live in a town with how many people?? 5000?? 20,0000??? So what does that mean. In a town of 5000 people you only need .06% of the people to buy 1 chicken per year to sell all the chickens you can raise. 20,000 people? Now you only need .01% of the people to buy 1 chicken per year to buy all you can raise. That is not six percent and 1 percent, that is 1/6th of 1 percent, and 1/10th of 1 percent. Do you think there is that many people out there in towns that size who are educated about food and able to afford to buy what they want?? I think the chances are very good that there are.

Now lets look at the argument that it is just for rich people. I do not agree with this, but I do agree if you have less money you will have to do better meal planning. How many of you would buy a cheap plastic tool, knowing it will break and you will have to replace it??? But what if you could get 10 cheap plastic tools and they would last you a year for the price of 1 good metal tool that will last forever??? This is how we must view food. We can eat many chicken Mc nuggets, which have low food quality and little benefit for our body, or we can eat a smaller amount of high quality chicken that will benefit our bodies much more and have long term health effects. We must change our eating habits and those of our customers to smaller portions of higher quality foods.

Now if you read all of that above and went. "That is all just marketing BS to get someone to pay more for the same thing they can get at the grocery store cheaper". Well, then I am wasting your time and you are wasting mine. Until you do your research and understand the difference in food quality, micro-nutrients, and nutrition, you would be better off to forget about raising chickens for meat and continue buying .49 cent chicken at the store, as you will be disappointed in the results of home raised pastured chicken. The cost will be more to produce and you will not be able to look at the meat and see a daylight and dark difference in the appearance.

But wait. There is no way you can support a family on 300 chikens per year. That is 300 x 2.5# average a bird, which means you are producing 750# per year at $5.00 per pound so that is only $3750.00 per year of which 1/2 of that is production cost, so you are only making $1850.00 per year. You can not live on that?? You are correct. But lets say you could produce 3000 chickens for you .6% of customers now you are making $18,500.00 per year. But that is not the answer. No one is going to live on a diet of all chicken. We also established you can not raise chicken year round. You must diversify in order for a farm to work. You can raise pigs in the winter and offer pork, raise turkeys and offer that, raise beef, grow a garden. You get the idea right. You will need various incomes from various complimentary products and it can all add up in the end to a livable income. Again if doing these things holds no interest for you outside of profit, you are better advised to not do it at all, and keep your day job and your subscription to the various farming magazines and live your dream life in your head.

I am not trying to be harsh or cruel in my comments, so I hope no one takes it as a personal attack, it is not meant to be. I just think we all need to be honest about our real interest and expectations. if your first concern is profit, above the other benefits derived from pastured poultry, you are probably going to be disappointed, in fact, I can almost guarantee it, so be honest with yourself.
 

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:thumb:
Not much to add to this last post! It is all about quality - in food, and in life.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Seymo, everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion on the subject, as I tried to make clear. I am not sure what can be gained by attempting to ridicule someone freely sharing their experiences, but I am sure if you have some useful information on the subject to offer fellow members here at HT about your experiences, we would all be glad to hear it and apply your methods to our operations. Maybe you have some methods that we could all benefit from, as you pointed out, it is new to me, so all I have to go on is what local people have provided for feedback, which so far has been positive. 5 years from now??? I have no idea how things will be going 5 years from now. What I can tell you is, I will still be growing food for my family as I mentioned above, whether I find a local market for my products is yet to be seen, as I stated. Thanks for posting in my thread and offering your opinion and I wish you great success with all of your operation.
 

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(QUOTED POST DELETED BY LADYCAT)

Where does this kind of mindset come from? Who says that you must make 100% of your income farming? I don't know anyone who does. Even the "big boys" don't. They rely on gov't subsides for a large part if their income. What's wrong with me making 50% of my income from farming activities & making up the other 50% doing something else?

I raise the same birds as the "big boys", but I do it a heck of a lot differently. I don't tractor them. I raise them the same way I do my laying hens - ranging in electronet. They eat non-GMO. Not organic, because I could never afford that. And what does "organic" mean, anyway. I rarely lose a chicken to the common "jumbo Cornish" problems. I have 2 roosters out there that missed slaughtering & are close to a year old. They get exercise
& fresh air. There are chicken houses near me that hold half million chickens at a time. The manure is destroying the waterways. People need bio-hazard suits to enter them. The farmers that own them can't drink out of their own wells.
You can smell them a mile away. Literally.

I have a strong customer base that will pay $5 a pound. Part of that is the area I live in, but a large part is a savvy consumer. People love to come to the farm and see the animals. They love that I do my own processing & they don't have to worry about some product recall that will make them & their kids sick.
Am I going to get rich? No.
But this is the life I've chosen. And I make enough to lead a simple, happy life with my kids. That's good enough for me.
 

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I forgot to add- I think with the rise of groups like ISIS, food production security is going to become a major concern. What kind of security can large slaughterhouses offer against bioterrorism? They're disturbingly easy to infiltrate. I bet there will be a major attack on the food system in the next 5 years. More and more people will be looking to step outside of traditional sources.
 

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But that is not the answer. No one is going to live on a diet of all chicken. We also established you can not raise chicken year round. You must diversify in order for a farm to work. You can raise pigs in the winter and offer pork, raise turkeys and offer that, raise beef, grow a garden. You get the idea right. You will need various incomes from various complimentary products and it can all add up in the end to a livable income.
Thanks for this thread Muleman, the time it took to get this all down is much appreciated. I'm facing a career change, not by choice, but it is what it is. Much of my life has been devoted to the food industry and I wanted to remain in it in some way or another if i could. One of the things that had grown in importance to me as i learned more and more was the sustainability and quality of my food sources, so becoming one of those suppliers was an easy choice. It's not about becoming rich, but more about doing what i believe is the right thing; something that can make a small difference, provide myself a modest living and maybe get a little closer to nature and the cycle of life. The disconnect between the average person and where their food comes and how it effects the land and the people that live on it is concerning. If I can change some minds and provide a quality, healthy product and pay my bills then it's a win win.

As you mentioned, diversity is key for myself and many others who want to make a living at this. I can see how having multiple revenue streams can be very beneficial; for someone just getting started, it helps you to gauge a market further and pick which areas you might want to expand, and which not to. If the demand is there, and the cost vs. value makes sense you can expand a certain operation. Another issue is time management; what i'm trying to do is come up with a working schedule, so that i'm not trying to do ten million things at any given time. Granted, in the summer and fall when the local markets are in full swing will be the busier seasons, but if i can get things accomplished and time things for future sales when it's not so crazy then it will help. Having hogs to slaughter in the spring along with extra feeders to sell will get me ahead enough that i can focus on the garden or bramble patches, which are seasonal. Expanding the seasons through the use of high tunnels or greenhouses might help me open those markets sooner, and keep them producing a little later. A few weeks at the beginning and end of a season may not at first sound like much, but those are also times when you can command a premium price as the market won't be so flooded. Another important aspect, i believe, is multitasking; not only do i want infrastructure that can serve more than one purpose, but there's creating a value added product from the overflow. I'm thinking mobile hoophouses that would serve as shelter during the frigid months and then used to get the veggies started in early spring; preserving excess fruit in the form of jams, or freezing the fruit as is and packaging it to be sold over the winter months when i have extra freezer space.

I'm still in the planning stages, and posts like this are invaluable as I start to run the numbers in an attempt to figure out how i can best spend my time and effort. The way i look at it is this: The amount of poultry i'm allowed to process myself and sell direct to consumer can cover my taxes for the year; a 100' high tunnel plus some rows of outdoor brambles and other berries could pay my utilities and fuel. Sales of vegetables could go to improvements on the farm. Keeping several sows that produce twice a year along with a couple of steer pays the insurance, buys hay/other feed and puts a little money in my pocket. Not saying it will work out that way, but it's a start, a plan. Plans change, and i'm ready for that. If one aspect of the farm has enough demand, makes financial sense and is physically possible, then so we go as the market dictates.

It may not take a fancy degree, or generations of experience to be a farmer, but you have to have passion for it. It seems like you have plenty, and care about what you're doing and who you do it for. I wish you all the best. If you have any suggestions as to how to make the most of the calendar year and keep busy even in the coldest months i'd be happy to hear. The goal is to have a variety of livestock, fruits and veggies that all have their time, place and purpose. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers. -AF
 

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thanks for those numbers, a lot of that is simliar with our operation. We sell kosher kings all day long at 4.79/lb and are sold out every year (do around 600, probably more next year).

We sell direct to customers here on the farm, with basically no marketing strategy other than a good sign out front, 2x a year newspaper ads, and a generous email list that we've accrued over the past 4 years.

I feed the KK 2x a day in moveable pens (alfalfa/orchard grass fields) 50 birds a pen, with w/e causes the feeder, hanging one from TSC to come up very close to empty by next feeding time). To be honest I haven't kept records as to their feed intake in the past 2 years but by 8 weeks I'm averaging a 4.5-5.5lb carcass weight bird. My feed costs are very low as we raise all the grains, corn, soy, here on the farm. Only the lime, mineral blend, and fishmeal are bought in.
 
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