Questions on raising your own meat

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Amy Jo, May 13, 2004.

  1. Amy Jo

    Amy Jo Well-Known Member

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    I want to raise my own meat. What animals do you have that the meat provided is worth more than the money you've spent to feed them? And what can you grow in order to lessen the feed costs for the animals that you raise? Do you raise a couple pigs and then sell one, or just raise for yourself?

    I need to raise something that I can have someone else slaughter... (I'm just not ready for that yet) What do you ask when you pick a butcher shop? What should i look for? Do you barter, or pay by the pound?
     
  2. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    A good start for us was laying hens...not really meat but good eggs are good food. We let ours loose during the summer so the feed bills go way down. Just lock them up at night. I have heard the meat chickens can put on 1 lb for every 2 of feed. We'll try those next.

    Lots of folks raise a couple pigs and sell one and butcher one. Pays back for the feed that way. Also pigs do pretty well on scraps. So far we've always been on the "buy one" end of these arrangements. Not free but good meat for a reasonable price. One of these days we'll jump into raising a couple.

    Some folks swear by rabbits...we've never tried them yet.

    Any wild game is always the cheapest on the feed bills. if you have wild hogs or deer or turkey you can get a lot of meat for free but of course it takes time to hunt.

    Good luck.

    Eric
     

  3. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    Eric's right...chickens are easy and inexpensive over the summer if you allow them to free range. Rabbits are great too. Very prolific and cheap to keep if they don't overstay their welcome.

    Find yourself someone local that doesn't mind the slaughtering aspect. You can often trade a portion of whatever your raising, meat, vegis, fruit, to offset the processing cost.
     
  4. if you are paying someone else to butcher and package, you will need to add that to you costs, as well as feed, livestock price, fencing, transportation, transportation equipment. Free range chickens will likely result in some losses (coyotes, hawks, trying to fly into a pond and drown, etc.) you will also want to talk to whomever is going to do the butchering, and talk to some references, see if they do a good job, see if they swap out meat, (replace yours with something else). When it was all added up for me, it was cost prohibitive to rasie my own, if I paid others. I went with small stock, potbellied pigs, and soay sheep and geese, and learned very quickly to do the butchering myself. You might try helping someone else do it, just to see it first hand prior to actually getting your own.
     
  5. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Here is a cost break down of what I have- costs vary by area. I think our feed bills are a little higher than national average:
    Free range heritage turkeys (6), ducks (4), chickens (7), and guineas (4), the feed bill here for them stays at about $20.00 per month. That includes little ones in the brooder all the time. I have enough eggs for me and my mother and some to give away to friends. Meatwise we have at least one chicken per week for our freezer and I give my mother at least one per month. I usually raise Cornish Rock crosses once a year for our freezer-they are excellent in converting feed to flesh.
    Meat rabbits- I sell these as well as use for meat and they are the only animal out here consistently making money for me but it took a couple of years to to get the process right. Feed bill depends on the amount I have at the time- about $19.00 per 30 does w/ litters per month.
    Pigs- I have five sows, one gilt and one boar. They are a drain on the feed bill but I've formulated my own feed and give scraps when I can and have the cost down to about $100 per month in feed. I sell the piglets but there is no profit. It just helps lower our cost in the end and I have the satisfaction of knowing they lived very well and died humanely, which is one of the primary reasons I raise our meat. Our freezer always has roasts and this weekend I started to make suasauge so it is one less thing I have to buy.
    I've just started with dairy goats and don't have a good idea of what they consume year round. Right now with a buck two kids and two does I am spending about $20 per month. If I had fenced in pasture that would be reduced to about $10.00 . They are starting to provide us with milk which is about $20.00 per month at the grocery store.
    Starting with chickens is easier than with any other animals. Rabbits are fairly easy but they need more equipment than chickens. If someone else will do the butchering for you that will add a bit to your bill. There are packing houses in the yellow pages of your phone directory for you to begin with. Visit them- some imo, are a little disgusting. I don't calculate how much time I spend feeding, cleaning, etc, or the time it takes to butcher, package, etc. it comes with the territory. In the big picture I think we spend about as much on feed as we would spend on our grocery bill but our food is much healthier and more humanely raised. Comparable food from a health food store would be way out of our budget. And our presents have gone from purchased items to gifts of meat or eggs. I think it evens out somewhere along the way if one doesn't take into account one's own labor. This is only way way of doing it - ther are many other ways. Best wishes with your endeavor I think it is well worth it.
     
  6. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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    Amy Jo, if you want something good get some Cornish roosters and feed them out in a coop off the ground, finishing out the last two weeks with nothing but birdseed. I haven't done this myself but I have eaten some that someone else did and its the best chicken I've ever tasted, it tastes something like Quail. The ones I ate were slaughtered when they were between one and two pounds. I don't consider cost with food like this.

    Tom
     
  7. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    On a small scale, you can expect to pay about $1.25 per pound for chicken you raise, and that includes buying the chicks, feed, modest feeding and watering supplies, transportation, and slaughter. I base those numbers on my commercial operation, so yours might be just slightly higher.
    For pigs, there is always someone willing to raise a pig for you, and around here they cost $150 for a 200-pounder on the hoof. You transport to slaughter (we use a $10 small UHaul trailer), pay for the butchering and smoking, and end up with 100+ lbs of meat for around $2 a lb. I don't think you can raise them for that unless you have a steady source of store or restaurant waste.
    Rabbits are next on our list.
     
  8. tim1253

    tim1253 Well-Known Member

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    I need to raise something that I can have someone else slaughter... (I'm just not ready for that yet) What do you ask when you pick a butcher shop? What should i look for? Do you barter, or pay by the pound?[/QUOTE]


    Rabbits and chickens are GREAT ideas but in our area it is almost impossible to find someone who would butcher those animals reasonably. I'm starting to get raised eyebrows with my lambs as many of the slaughterhouses around here do pork and beef and sheep/goats if they have to but the costs are pretty high. I have had some success in bartering with ethnic customers who do a good job slaughtering...meat for them for dressed meat for me.

    Tim
    Knoxville, TN
     
  9. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I raise cattle and chickens and make money on both. I raise cattle commercially, yet using natural methods, but my costs probably would not apply to a smaller operation. However, I think anyone can make money raising broiler chickens.

    Poultry equipment is cheap and it is easy to build some things for cheap. Chicks are cheap and they grow fast. You don't have a long time invested in the animal like you do with cattle. I have found them so easy to sell that I can't keep up with the demand. I raise 300-400 per month and am working to get to where I can raise at least 500 at a time and I don't think that will be enough!

    Last year I raised a total of 50 birds. This year I will raise over 2000 and every one will sell. I'm not a sales type of person at all and I don't know much about marketing. Home raised chickens are so good, they sell themselves.

    I make about 50% profit on my birds, not counting my time. If I consider my labor, I'm still ahead. They are labor intensive, depending on how many you have. 50 birds is easy....400 is a lot of work, but the amount of labor per bird goes down, obviously.

    I am fortunate to have a USDA inspected processor within an hour's drive. I think the fact that they are inspected and not processed on the farm helps with my sales. I know it helps with my insurance (if you process on farm for sales, your insurance will likely cancel you).

    Check out your processing options first. Find out what animals they will do, whether they are inspected (state or USDA), and the cost. It would do you no good to raise a bunch of chickens only to find you have nowhere to get them processed! I pay $1.60 per chicken for processing, but I know some places it is as high as $3-$4! I have never asked if they would barter for the processing costs, but usually these places are small and individually owned. Chances are they would be willing to work something out.

    To lower feed costs....buy bulk ingredients and then find someone to grind it for you. I would gladly do that for people. I always have corn and soybean meal on hand that I would sell at cost. I would charge for the use of my machinery, but I'm sure they would end up paying less than by buying the pretty bags at the feed store. See if a farmer in your area will do this for you. If you are concerned about contamination of feed, check on what else they run through their grinder! This is not a huge issue with hogs or chickens, but is with cattle.

    Take adavantage of any pasture you have. Many people will only raise animals in the growing season...buy a small calf in the spring, sell it in the fall. Raise hogs on pasture all summer, etc.

    I cannot raise chickens to equal the cost of wal-mart chickens, however I have chickens in my freezer for my own use, plus money in the bank from their sales.

    Jena
     
  10. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    "I don't think you can raise them for that unless you have a steady source of store or restaurant waste."

    As far as I know it is illegal to feed at least restaurant waste to pigs intended for commercial production. That including feeding your own kitchen scraps to a pig if you will sell the meat to someone else. Comes from the hoof and mouth disease outbreaks.

    I don't know about grocery stores - and I'm assuming you mean the trimmings from the vegetable department only. Here so much of it is delivered ready to go in the case there might not be much.

    As I have noted before, my cousins in Croatia raise freezer rabbits with no purchased feed beyond stale bread and dried field corn still on the cob. They use a scythe to cut what they need for their three does & buck and weaned litter, plus extra to put on a pile to become winter hay. On the corn, they just put an ear in the cage and let the rabbits chew off the kernels. When it is down to the cob they put in another. They might get garden trimmings - I forgot to ask. I don't think you can get much cheaper than that.

    On chickens, plucking is usually the difficult part. They can be skinned instead if you prefer to cook them that way.

    Ken S. in WC TN
     
  11. John_in_Houston

    John_in_Houston Well-Known Member

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    Ken,

    Over in the Rabbit Forum, I constantly hear that the only way to raise rabbits is to use pelleted feed because they will all die of malnutrition or something if you don't.

    Did your cousin's rabbits look like good eating? Also, did they feed them any hay or grass? I assumed that was what they were using the scythe for.

    Finally, do you know of any links for how to skin a chicken?

    Thanks!
     
  12. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    When I worked at a large supermarket chain a few years ago, they would NOT allow any trimmings or day old bakery products to be given to farmers for "insurance purposes". It all went into the dumpster/trash compacter. I do know that some smaller stores will because I have been at the benefit end!

    Whethered goats can be purchased cheap (or frree) and pastured for summer if you have an acre of land. harvested at 7-9 months about 100# live wt. maybe more depending on breed.

    We pay 35 cents a pound for custom deer processing, wrapped and blast frozen.
     
  13. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    In most areas, restaurant customer waste is considered garbage and it's illegal to feed it to pigs intended for resale. I'm not sure about personal use. I was talking about culled vegetables, breads, etc. that hadn't been served to customers. Expired dairy products from supermarkets are allowed for feed here, and my local supermarket puts out crates of stuff every day on a first come first served basis for pig people. Sam's Club won't do it, though. I see them cull 50 lbs. of cherry tomatoes at a time, so one would have to dumpster dive to avail oneself of that resource.
     
  14. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    You can make money with poultry on purchased feeds, rabbits should be as good or even better and taste great. I raise sheep to sell because it suits my area's market and I'm set up to feed them economically. Wool breeds offer a minimum of two products (wool and meat) but you can add dairy products and manure to the things you can sell. They are higher managment, but after 15 years of break even on cattle its nice to profit a little with sheep.
     
  15. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    John:

    Remember there is a difference between commercial and home production. They had three does and a buck. The does were time so one littler was ready to go into a separate growing pen (actually about 4' x 6' stall) when the litter in it was ready to go into the freezer. I don't know breed - large ones - probably crosses. I asked about health, sniffles, etc. and was told they never have a problem.

    During the spring, summer and fall my cousin's husband took a yard cart-type wheelbarrel, scythe and pitchfork to the field in back of their lot. He would cut a load of mixed grasses mostly. What wasn't fed directly went on poles over a former pig stall to dry for winter use.

    Stale bread came from the village bakery. Apparently they don't use any type of preservatives in their bread as the loafs would go stale quickly. The ones which weren't sold fresh were then sold as feed after a couple of days.

    They didn't grow their own corn. They said it took up too much room in the garden when they needed the space for other crops. It was just purchased locally.

    The rabbits were given NO commercial feed, nor salt.

    Each pen had a layer of spoiled hay on the floor and the does would just build a nest of hay in a corner of the pen. If I understood correctly, average weaned litter size was 11-12.

    Basically they used the KISS concept.

    Ken S. in WC TN
     
  16. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    My family in Cuba used this concept. When they visit my little homestead, with all the commercial rations, and knowing the problems I've had with the rabbits, they tell me its the American livestock :) 11- 12 upon weaning is extraordinary. Clearly we can learn a lot from our neighboring countries.
     
  17. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    I've raised about everything you could think of,did my own butchering.Kept track of all cost,lost on Hogs,broke even on Poultry,and Calves,could sell Goats for more than they were worth butchering,did come out ahead on Rabbits.

    Its just cheaper for me to Trap,Hunt,and Fish for my meat.

    big rockpile
     
  18. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    When rabbit producers insist you need wire floors, with perhaps a board for the rabbit to rest their feet, I'm wondering if it isn't possible to have a compromise. Wire floors but with a layer of straw over it. As the rabbit moved around the pellets would work their way through the straw and drop through the wire. Urine would soak into the straw, but it should dry out since there would be air circulation through it. Just change the straw every week or so if the doe isn't nesting (in a nest she built with straw herself). The rabbits wouldn't have to walk around all the time on the wire itself while there would still be a degree of sanitation. Any thoughts?

    Ken S. in wC TN
     
  19. The last batch of Cornish Rock cross we did cost us $5.89 per bird. This was using only commercial feed. We don't weigh them, but I can tell you they are very heavy birds. Be sure you're comparing apples to oranges here too when price comparing. WalMart chicken is not organic and the prices reflect that. Organic chicken in your health food type places is much much higher priced. I would say, having just looked at some WalMart roasters the other day (just love to do that sometimes, to be able to say, hmmm, don't need any of this, freezer's full of our own) that our birds are as large and I would say cost a bit less.
     
  20. Amy Jo

    Amy Jo Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for the information you've shared here. It's helped me to figure out exactly where to start... which is with chickens for laying, then some chickens for eating. I do know someone who doesn't mind the butchering - so I'll raise enough to give her some for her time and effort.

    Perhaps for me it would be worth it to buy a side of beef instead of raising it myself. And perhaps some pork in bulk as well from some local farmers when they go to slaughter. I may try to raise one pig - just because I want to have done that. ?

    Rabbits would be perfect, it sounds... except we had a rabbit for a housepet before and it would feel a little weird to eat one that we raised...

    So, I suppose I'll invest my time in garden food, berries, and fruit trees. I wanted to get the fruit trees in this year, but where we want to put them needs some work (dead tree needs dropped, brush needs dragged out and some tops need cut up and hauled out) and we've been busy working on getting the driveway widened and cutting a swath through to the road where the underground utilities are going to go.

    Friday we applied for our construction mortgage.. YAY!