Whew! It’s certainly been a whirlwind week on the farm! From farm tours and meetings to finalizing feed prices, purchasing new breeding stock and stocking up on hay we were moving at 100 MPH this week.
For many of our friends who are vegetable producers, this time is filled with seed catalogs, planning planting space options, sourcing organic fertilizers, finalizing CSA prices and customers. For us, it means a lot of planning breeding schedules, dry off & rest periods for our animals and pastures, and deciding how to best allocate our limited resources of time, talent and treasure on the farm with our growing family (6 more weeks until Baby Bear’s arrival but who’s really counting?!)
This season we’re focusing on growing our raw milk dairy and pork production, while also continuing to offer pasture-raised whole meat chickens, Thanksgiving turkeys and eggs (although our hens are taking a winter hiatus right now). One of the great advantages of selling direct to consumer is our ability to work directly with our customers in the community and produce exactly what the market is demanding – this is makes us far more efficient and profitable than most conventional farmers who produce what the USDA, or local extention office tells them they should do. (Another blog in itself)
So, beef is still really up in the air for us this year; we finished all of our stock at the end of last season and have been eagerly awaiting a drop in cattle prices to invest in more beef to finish but it doesn’t look like cattle (or beef) prices will be declining any time soon. That means we have to choose how to focus our resources on the farm – eventually we would love to have our own beef herd with breeding stock to provide a consistent and low cost source of beef to finish each season. While this is certainly a long-term goal, we are choosing to focus on the dairy and pork for several reasons, which I won’t necessarily bore you with this week. 😉
So, stay tuned for beef updates. We will have chicken, turkey, egg and pork prices set soon based on our new non-GMO feed prices.
In the meantime, we are really excited to have our new Berkshire breeding stock (4 gilts and 1 boar) delivered this week to begin farrowing pigs on our farm! This will enable us to control the entire life cycle of the pork we sell and offer a more consistent product, both for our retail and wholesale customers. Plus, the Berkshire breed is well known for its excellent quality meat and ability to flourish in a pasture-based production system like we run. As always, they will be fed a varied diet of milk, bulk veggies & scraps, and 100% non-GMO grain. Yum!
Dairy is also expanding this year – we’re visiting a lactating cow this week that we’re hoping to purchase soon and were able to touch base with an Amish farmer we work with about another cow due to calf this spring. We’ve been busy planning and coordinating breeding & calving schedules for the year to make sure we have a consistent milk supply to our customers. The past month has been filled with visits from NorthStar Cooperative/Select Sires to choose semen, breed cows and pregnancy check them. Yes – we do receive a catalog of Jersey bull semen options with all kinds of ratings and pictures to help us choose the best breeding stock for our girls…and, No, we do not just hold the catalog up to each cow and order whichever semen she “Moos” at. ;D
Until next week, check out this interview with grass-based raw milk dairy farmer Mark McAfee of California’s Organic Pastures. Trust me, it’s worth the 26 minutes – you’ll learn a ton be completely entertained by his speaking!