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.

Three Little Pigs

May 28, 2009


Isaac, Lael, and my 250 lbs. pastured hogs which will be butchered in June.  Note the single-strand electric fence in the foreground.

Isaac and his stepmom Lael visited my farm again and took home three little pigs.  Isaac and Lael are meat-eaters who desire to raise it themselves.  They own an acreage outside of Madison and are exploring the options for their land.  I’m glad pigs are a part of the plan.  Best of luck!

What’s in a Product? Read the Label

February 11, 2009

What’s in a product?  Do you think you know, so you don’t have to check?  I’ve had two instances where I’ve been shocked by the content of something I thought I knew.

Corn syrup is in just about everything.  Would you believe it’s in bratwurst?  I was running low on different meats and thought I would pick up some bratwurst from our butcher when I delivered hogs last Monday. 

I picked up a package of brats and read the label and put it back quickly.  I was trying to stay away from corn syrup before I started the meat diet.  I especially don’t want any now.

I called Carrie, one of my partners, and asked her, “Do you know Weber’s puts corn syrup in their brats?”

“Yes,” she told me.  “That’s why we came up with our own recipe.  It doesn’t need to be in there.”

I agreed.  I told her I would be over to pick up some brats soon.

The second time I was shocked was when I was negotiating a partnership with Carrie and Eric to direct-market meat together.  We discussed our production protocols and what the consumer wants.  One of the items we discussed was feeding animal products to animals.

“Never have, never will,” I confidently asserted. 

A few days later I was grinding feed and thought to look at one of the feedbag labels.  We put 40 lbs. of a vitamin/mineral premix in every ton of hog feed.  There is a kajillion ingredients on the tag and I guess I had never read all the way to the end before.  When I read the last ingredient I had to sit down.  Animal fat.

I called our feed salesman and asked him if he knew.

“Yes, it’s just a little bit.”

“Why?” I asked.

“To keep the dust down.”

To keep the dust down.  The reason JBS United puts animal fat in their feed is to make the feed less dusty.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  They are a progressive company when it comes to swine nutrition, but massively out of touch when it comes to the ultimate consumer.

I asked if we could get our feed without animal fat.  He wasn’t sure but would check for me.  Turns out JBS United has a natural product line called, Grand Prairie.  All we had to do was ask.  We switched over right away and the hogs have done just fine on the new feed.

What’s in a product?  Read the label, but do it sitting down.