Friday, November 12: This week has been spent digging out the water line to the pig’s barn and replacing it with the more expensive and hopefully better quality line the county uses. Two leaks in three years are two too many. In addition, we are trying to put the farm to bed: we cleaned out the raised beds, except for some calendula that has withstood the frosts — the color is so welcome in a landscape that is turning fawn and brown. We culled laying hens, and canned the ones that seemed dry (only one bad call, eggs inside her, but all the other signs were for a non-layer — go figure). We also took out the big RI red rooster that has been getting more aggressive; he’ll make great gumbo, but we are getting ready to put the ten-week pullets in with the old flock, and I could just imagine all those little girls heading for the woods if subjected to his attentions. There’s a young rooster or two in with the pullets, to replace Brewster.
Thursday night we finally got to go pick up the new piglets. They are Spotted/China crosses, one gilt and one barrow, about 45 lb. each. We have installed them in the new pigpen on a deep bed of wood chips, and will soon be in a position to say how well pigs grow on dairy waste (buttermilk, whey), old bread, and table scraps. One thing we know already — they love the milk and bread. Pigs don’t eat as much as people tend to expect, either; they are very efficient converters of food into flesh. Expect good notes on this project.
Saturday, November 6: We didn’t get a hanging wt. on this steer, but its wrapped wt. is right about 280 lb. I won’t do the math — it comes to something under $.10 per pound. We hung the quarters from Monday to Saturday, and tonight we had hamburgers and sirloins. (This is not a case of discrimination against minors — the children prefer hamburgers to steak.) This is the first time we have aged our beef, and we are impressed with the great tenderness of this meat. We have had no complaints to make on the score of tenderness previously — these young animals are naturally tender — but tonight’s dinner was something new in the way of delicious.
We are looking forward next year to seeing how management intensive grazing stretches our pasture time and reduces hay consumption.
Monday Shawn and the boys (#’s 3, 4, 5) quartered the first of the big steers. These are Jerseys we started last spring, purchased from a local dairy at $10 apiece, and raised on excess milk, grass, and hay.
We are still trying to compute a cost for raising them. By one system — the one we were raised with — we should consider our labor as an expense. Time is money, and all that. By another system, we ought to count the value of our labor as profit, since we didn’t have to pay anyone else to do the work of feeding and otherwise caring for the cattle. But farming is how we like to live (and eat), and we didn’t forgo doing something else more profitable with the time we spent farming (most of us have a pretty low market value anyway), so we will count our labor as neither cost nor credit, but merely time well spent.
Roughly, the calves’ cost per looks like this:
$10 — purchase
$.50 — dehorning paste, castrating ring
hay — we actually put up our own hay, which takes a couple of weeks each summer, but the time and expense here is part of our education budget. The cost of baling twine and diesel comes to just a few cents per bale. (I could try to account for the depreciation on the tractor, but it was old and beat-up when bought, and I don’t expect we’ll upgrade any time soon… ) If we were buying hay, at the rate of, say, 1/3 bale per baby steer per day, at maybe $3 a bale, for about six months of the year, we would be looking at about $180 in hay per finished steer. Only, we don’t buy hay, so our real costs are really very low.
We butcher our own animals; Maybe $10 in butcher’s paper and tape.
Grand total — $25?