Farming Fun With Friends

September 15, 2009

IMG_7363

 

Posed photo:  manure spreader and rented “bobcat” loader in hoop building after cleaning out and adding two loads of lime.

My father and farming partner had surgery for colon cancer two weeks ago.  He is home and recovering but will not be able to lift anything for a few more weeks.   

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks working without him.  Thank God I have friends and family willing to pitch in and help me out.  Thank you.  Some jobs are almost impossible alone.

I finished baling the 3rd cutting of hay.  We were blessed with dry weather which was necessary to make dry hay this time of year. 

After that I needed to clean out a hoop building and spread the manure on the designated hay strips which will be corn next year.  Two friends each ran a tractor with manure spreader for me.  I loaded the manure with the rented “bobcat.”

The “bobcat” probably costs more than $30,000 new.  But we can rent it for $150-200 dollars and get a hoop building clean.  It has tracks like a bulldozer so it works great on the dirt floor of the hoop building.  In 3-4 hours I can have 20+ loads of manure spread on my fields and a clean hoop building.

After that I put 1-2 loads of lime, (crushed limestone), on the floor of the hoop building to reestablish a base.  Lime is considered a fertilizer for crops and works great in this capacity because it packs kind of like wet sand.

I’ll let the hoop building set empty until I’m ready to put pigs into it and then I will unroll straw or cornstalk bedding and I’m ready to go.  We won’t clean the hoop building out again until the next batch of pigs goes to market.

It’s fun to complete a task with friends.  And it’s fun to run a “bobcat”.  This is farming fun with friends!


The Law of Supply and Demand in Action

June 4, 2009

The price of soybean meal has gone through the roof.  The last load we purchased was over $.20 per lb. which is 30% greater than  the price we paid in March.  We buy a 3 ton load every ten days to two weeks.  Our cost per load has increased $300.

Farmers gossip more than a murder of crows.  The latest “news” is that we’re going to run out of soybean meal this summer.  I panicked a little.  Our direct-market hogs are on an alfalfa pasture and would be ok if only fed corn.  The logistics of getting all of the rest of our hogs onto pasture scared and excited me.  I love a challenge.  Then I realized that I was reacting to gossip and didn’t need to get crazy just yet.

I did, however, call my feed salesman and determined that it would be cost effective to substitute lysine and threonine, the two most limiting amino acids in a corn/soy diet for hogs, for soybean meal.  So I did.

For hogs weighing 200 lbs. to market, I am substituting 3 lbs. of lysine and 1 lb. of threonine for 50 lbs. of soybean meal in every ton of feed.  3 lbs. of lysine costs $2.85.  1 lb. of threonine costs $1.38.  So the total extra cost is $3.93.  50 lbs. of soybean meal costs roughly $10.  So the savings is roughly $6 per ton of feed.  We use about 6 ton of this feed per week, so the savings is $36 per week.  If soybean meal stays high all summer until harvest, and the relative prices stay similar, we will save $432 over 12 weeks.

I realize this isn’t a huge savings.  But it felt good to take some action.  And the collective action by many soybean meal users will keep us from running out of soybean meal until harvest.  This is the Law of Supply and Demand in action.


Hog Feed is as Dear as Gold Dust

January 26, 2009

In Brief

In 2008 we held our whole herd feed efficiency constant while taking our hogs to heavier market weights for our expanded direct market business.  However, the higher price of soybean meal and premix resulted in our highest feed price and highest cost of production ever.

 

In Detail

            Several years ago we purchased a scale for our feed mix/mill.  This allowed us to formulate more accurate rations.  It also enabled us to get an accurate accounting of feed used.  This statistic, when divided by lbs. of pork produced gives us one of the most important measures of productivity:  Whole herd feed efficiency.  As you will see by the following data we have been remarkably consistent.

            Avg. market weight       Pork produced             Feed used        Feed efficiency

2006    280 lbs.                        278,034 lbs.                 1,125,100 lbs.  4.05 lbs.feed/lb. gain

2007    279 lbs.                        258,397 lbs.                 1,043,200 lbs. 4.04 lbs.feed/lb. gain

2008    290 lbs.                        248,494 lbs.                 1,006,800 lbs. 4.05 lbs.feed/lb. gain

 

            When we look at the price of feed a different picture emerges.  Market fluctuations have resulted in a roller-coaster ride.  Thankfully, we raise our own corn and oats and the price I use for these commodities is our cost of production.  Corn is priced at $.04 per lb. which is $2.24 per bushel.  Oats are $.06 per lb. which is $1.92 per 32 lb. bushel.  When oats are available and corn is scarce, oats are substituted for corn on a pound for pound basis at up to 20% of the ration.  We notice no reduction in gain at this level.  Oats are also included in the gestation ration most of the year.

Soybean meal, (SBM), has fluctuated greatly, especially in 2008.  When SBM approached $400 per ton, (.20 per lb.), we looked at ways to reduce our use.  Our salesman from JBS United, (Carl Walter, phone: 608 845 3344), helped us formulate rations with added lysine and threonine which are the first and second limiting amino acids in a corn/soy diet for swine.  Consequently, we used less of the expensive SBM.  SBM, as well as the rest of the markets came down dramatically this fall.  For these two reasons our price for SBM was actually the same for both 2007 and 2008 at $.18 per lb.

The amount and price of the vitamin/mineral/amino acid premix used from JBS United is where we see the greatest change.  There are probably a few reasons for this.  First, the price of everything was up in 2008 and premix was no exception.  Second, we added extra amino acids so we could cut down on the SBM.  And third, we started using a special order premix with no animal products to meet the demands of our direct market.

2007 Feed

Type                Amount            Price/lb.            Dollars

Corn                807,265 lbs.     $.04                 $32,290

Oats                   20,500 lbs.     $.06                 $  1,230

SBM                181,935 lbs.     $.18                 $32,748

Premix                33,500 lbs.     $.40                 $13,400

 

Total              1,043,200 lbs.    $.076               $79,668

 

 

2008 Feed

Type                Amount            Price/lb.            Dollars

Corn                774,775 lbs.     $.04                 $30,991

Oats                   34,850 lbs.     $.06                 $  2,091

SBM                159,545 lbs.     $.18                 $29,068

Premix                37,630 lbs.     $.55                 $20,796

 

Total              1,006,800 lbs.    $.082               $82,946

 

            Now we have everything we need to figure out our cost of feed per lb. of pork produced.  Multiply the whole herd feed efficiency, (4.05), by the average price per lb. of feed, ($.082), which gives us a feed cost per lb. of  pork of $.33.  We received $.40 for the first load of hogs we sold to Tyson in January, 2009.

            The overall average price per pound is up $.006, ($.082 – $.076).  This doesn’t seem like much, but on 1,000,000 lbs. of feed its $6,000.  Six thousand dollars out of my pocket.  Not good.  Lets me know, though, where I need to watch in 2009.  Check out my next post to see my feed budget for 2009.

            Some of you economist types are saying I should be pricing my corn at market price.  Ok, let’s do worst-case scenario for fun.  Let’s say for some reason we purchased all of our corn last summer at the market peak of $7 per bushel.  That gives us a price per lb. of $.125 for corn.  Multiply that times the lbs. of corn, (774,775lbs.), equals $96,847.  Add that with the oats, SBM, and premix equals $148,802.  Divide that by the total lbs. of feed, (1,006,800), and we have an average cost of feed of $.148.  Now multiply that by whole herd feed efficiency, (4.05), and we have an astounding feed cost per lb. of pork of $.60.  Last summer, we actually sold a few loads to Tyson over $.60 with a peak of $.66.  But for most of the year we would have lost our shirt. 

            My Dad was telling a joke last summer.  He said he needed to get his mix/mill fixed.  People would ask why.  He would say that he used to put in $2 corn, feed it to hogs, and get $3 for it.  Now he’s putting in $5 corn, feeding it to hogs, and getting $3 for it.  That’s a good example of Walter humor.


2009 Hog Feed Budget

January 25, 2009

In Brief

           

Hog feed is the most expensive at weaning.  As hogs grow, they require less protein and consequently, less expensive rations.  I have developed a feed budget so as to not overfeed an expensive ration. 

Following, is my feed budget with January, 2009 prices.  The soybean meal, (SBM), is from Kieler Feed, phone: 608 568 7707.  The premix is from JBS United, (Carl Walter, phone: 608 845 3344).  The premix is called Grand Prairie and is formulated especially for producers who desire to not feed antibiotics or animal products to their swine. The corn is priced at our cost of production, ($2.24 per bushel or $.04 per lb.).

 

In Detail

 

Type                lbs. of feed       price/lb.            dollars

Starter              500 lbs.           $.766               $383

SBM                500 lbs.           $.165               $ 83

Corn                1000 lbs.          $.04                 $ 40

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.253               $506

Estimated hog weight: 10 to 20 lbs.

Feed budget: 10 lbs. per hog    

 

Grow 1            250 lbs.           $.723               $181

SBM                500 lbs.           $.165               $ 83

Corn                1250 lbs.          $.04                 $ 50

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.157               $314

Estimated hog weight: 20 to 30 lbs.

Feed budget: 20 lbs. per hog

 

Grow 1             125 lbs.          $.723               $ 90

40 L                     25 lbs.          $.445               $ 11

SBM                 500 lbs.          $.165               $ 83

Corn                1350 lbs.          $.04                 $ 54

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.12                 $238

Estimated hog weight: 30 to 60 lbs.

Feed budget: 60 lbs. per hog

 

40 L                     50 lbs.          $.445               $ 22

SBM                  600 lbs.          $.165               $ 99

Corn                1350 lbs.          $.04                 $ 54

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.088               $175

Crude protein: 20.25%

Estimated hog weight: 60 to 80 lbs.

Feed budget: 60 lbs. per hog

 

 

40 L                     50 lbs.          $.445               $ 22

SBM                  500 lbs.          $.165               $ 83

Corn                1450 lbs.          $.04                 $ 58

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.082               $163

Crude protein: 18.25%

Estimated hog weight: 80 to 120 lbs.

Feed budget: 120 lbs. per hog

 

40 L                     50 lbs.          $.445               $ 22

SBM                  400 lbs.          $.165               $ 66

Corn                1550 lbs.          $.04                 $ 62

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.075               $150

Crude protein: 16.25%

Estimated hog weight: 120 to 160 lbs.

Feed budget: 120 lbs. per hog

 

40 L                     40 lbs.          $.445               $ 18

SBM                  350 lbs.          $.165               $ 58

Corn                1610 lbs.          $.04                 $ 64

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.07                 $140

Crude protein: 15.25%

Estimated hog weight: 160 to 200 lbs.

Feed budget: 120 lbs. per hog

 

40 L                     40 lbs.          $.445               $ 18

SBM                  300 lbs.          $.165               $ 50

Corn                1660 lbs.          $.04                 $ 66

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.067               $134

Crude protein: 14.25%

Estimated hog weight: 200 to 240 lbs.

Feed budget: 120 lbs. per hog

 

40 L                     40 lbs.          $.445               $ 18

SBM                  250 lbs.          $.165               $ 41

Corn                1710 lbs.          $.04                 $ 68

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.064               $127

Crude protein:  13.25%

Estimated hog weight: 240 lbs. to market

Feed budget: until market

 

            I will also include the rations for our breeding stock.

 

Sow 80               80 lbs.          $.653               $ 52

SBM                  250 lbs.          $.165               $ 41

Corn                1670 lbs.          $.04                 $ 67

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.08                 $160

Gestation ration:  for breeding sows and boars.

Note:  this is also my layer ration for my hens.

 

Sow 80                80 lbs.          $.653               $ 52

SBM                  540 lbs.          $.165               $ 89

Corn                1380 lbs.          $.04                 $ 55

 

Total                2000 lbs.          $.098               $196

Lactation ration:  for lactating sows.

Note:  this is also my starter ration for baby chicks until 8-10 weeks of age.

 

            It is relatively easy for us to use this feed budget.  We farrow in groups and each group is then reared together in a hoop building.  We simply count the pigs and then multiply the number of pigs by the feed per pig and round to the nearest ton of feed.  For example:  150 pigs budgeted to receive 120 lbs. of a ration would equal 18,000 lbs. or 9 ton of feed.  Each batch of feed is recorded in a notebook so we can keep track of feed usage.