Showing posts with label Homestead Business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homestead Business. Show all posts

Farming For Profit: Then Its a Business

Farming for profit can be a hard business model. You need to know farming skills and business skills! But it can be done! #farmingforprofit #homesteader

When the Homesteading Honeymoon is over

A few years ago on Facebook, several of my friends and fellow "livestock/agriculturalists" have been sharing an article called "Quitting Season: Why Farmers Walk Away From Their farms". It is a very well done article about the economic realities that drive individuals out of smallholder farming for profit. It is one of the few articles or blog posts that even touch on the stark brutality of smallholder farming economics.

Farming for Profit is a Business, while Homesteading might not be

It is important at this point for me to clarify my definitions of the difference between, farming for profit, subsistence farming, and hobby farming.
Please understand these are my definitions and you may disagree with them.

  • Farming for profit is a conscious decision to provide the bulk (or at least a major portion of) your income from livestock or some form of agriculture. It is an agribusiness model most likely smack dab in the middle of the US food supply chain. Whether that be raising breeding stock, meat, milk,  eggs, or homegrown plant products for animal feed or human consumption. 
  • Subsistence farming is an all-out attempt to grow the maximum percentage of your nutritional needs. This was our starting goal which you can read about here Investment in the Homestead LifestyleThis can be health, dietary or agenda driven. It requires a conscious realization that whatever your goals that your life requires an income not based on your property(day job, investments, etc). Although in the ideal scenario there are cash flows to offset the cost. Your net feed /grocery store bill goal is that it is at, or under, your pre-farm grocery bill level. 
  • Hobby farming is just that. You may want a few vegetables or meat sources or a great "lifestyle" environment for you and your family. Very often it is an agenda driven moment where the hobby farmer can declare revolutionary independence from the decadence of the food supply chain in between boxes of pasta or Chinese take out. 
farming for profit

Today, unfortunately, all three are blended into a "club" that is growing in popularity, social acceptance call the "Homesteading Movement".  And in some cases, the siren song of "Homesteading" is a scam being perpetrated on the idealistic optimism of would be new small business people by a conglomeration of feel-good magazines and bloggers.
Look I am not trying to be judgmental here. My point is only that before you can know your limitations you need to know who you are. And knowing why you are who you are is the best way to recognize potential bad decisions based on your own emotionalism.

Farming for Profit IS a Business and the same rules apply

 But returning to the subject article. At the end of what I think is a very good article up to that point the author comes to the following conclusion "When farmers call it quits it is not because they have failed—it is because our archaic food and agriculture system has failed them. One thing remains for sure: if, as a society, we don’t prioritize the health, well being, and financial solvency of our farmers, we will lose them by the droves—along with all of their precious resources, talent, and skill—and the kinds of food only a farmer who loves his work can provide." 
It is at this point that the author drops the ball in my opinion. I am sorry but the failure of any business can usually be traced to the preparation, skills, and resources of who stares the owners in the mirror every morning. Notice I said small business. Not small farmers. Because for some reason when you use the term farmer some people think the rules of small business are magically dissipated by some Norman Rockwell image of a "food and agriculture system" that is duty bound to support inefficient or noncompetitive business models.

 For the past 29 years, I have been self-employed in a series of small entrepreneurial start-ups. In each case, I founded or co-founded startup entities. Those businesses include a recreational boat dealership, an event marketing business, a used car dealership/ asset value recovery firm and today our little 38-acre subsistence farm which eventually led to our small farm Meishan Pig Business.

farming for profit

Know Your Competition

Some businesses I ran were mildly successful, and some were successful for a period of time. But some just existed in a constant state of an extended terminal disease! I am not a business genius. I am just a small business survivor.

So how does this relate to the article? It's quite simple. If you are going to walk into a bar and take a swing at the biggest worst dude in the joint you better be ready to get your butt whipped. That is unless you have a weapon, skill or secret invulnerability he doesn't have. Another way to paraphrase this is to suggest that you better make a pretty good sandwich if you are going to open a sandwich shop in between a Panera bread and a Subway. Its gonna take more than Mommy's old world mayonnaise. Because in small business the only unforgivable sin is to run out of money. And your competitors will be more unmerciful than a Mongol hoard when you stumble. As I said earlier the smallholder agricultural model in many cases(including those in the cited article) are within the US food supply chain.
Our U.S. food supply chain is a multi-billion dollar supply chain dominated by very large and very powerful competitors. And they got that way because they supplied the public with EXACTLY what they demanded. Which is:

  1. That is food that is convenient.
  2. Uniform in appearance
  3. Targeted at the lowest common denominator pallet 
  4. Most of all the majority of the public wants low-cost food in relation to the products supplied by smallholders. 

Sad but true... We have "Big Ag" because we demanded "Big Ag". We have "Big Ag" so we can spend more time and money on our I-phone than we do in the kitchen.

Small Farming for Profit can be done!

 So does that mean its a hopeless endeavor? No, but I think the problems with many failed smallholder "farmer" attempts is to ignore the fundamental realities of all small businesses.

The first is you have to be everything. You have to be the CEO, CFO, brand manager, advertising manager, customer service specialist, expediter janitor, laborer and bottle washer. If you are going up against Kroger and Purdue understand they have entire departments to do each function and that function only.  They pay those managers 6 figure plus salaries to do those things. Then give them resources you just can't imagine.

Unless you are very special they are better at each function than you are. They became better at it while crushing other competitors, much larger and much better funded than you. They are the biggest worst dudes in the bar. If you are going to play in this arena you need a niche so specialized, so new or so small as to remain below their radar. If you are raising the same breed of chicken, hog, beef, or commonly available vegetable as the big guys and expect people to pay double because you are nicer to the animal you better be great at branding (Joel Salatin) or have direct access to a demographic nobody else is servicing.

The broiler chicken that can be slaughtered in 6 weeks was developed for the "Big Ag" guys. If you think raising it in a pasture makes you invincible then just look at how many before you have failed. And before you go reaching for your keyboard and tell me how Joel Salatin does it please research how much land, how much equipment and infrastructure he has! How many employees and interns he has and what his revenue from speaking is! Then tell me how you as a small startup compare.

More Product does not always equal more $$

The second fundamental rule of business is that you can't sell at a loss and make it up in volume. In the cited article one farmer realized (well into the endeavor) that he was losing money selling beef. That his ground beef had to go from $8 a pound to $11 a pound. He tried to make the jump in one week. Failure ensued.

In what business do you even begin without a clear cost analysis/product price analysis? Who waits until they are going broke to calculate these things.? Rookie farmers do! Part of the issue in this segment is that for many it is the first foray into a small self-owned business. I can tell you that there are no manuals or feel good magazine articles that come close to capturing the brutal reality of small business for profit.
And rookies, like I did when I was a small business rookie, find out quickly the complexity of accounting, regulations, waste, cost of goods sold, marketing, branding, etc will humble you. If you are competing against the big guys when the realization hits you are already a dead farm walking.

Worse yet farming and the "make money while living your dream" homestead business fairy tales being overly romanticized by a host of feel-good publications are just not accurate. These BUSINESS'S are focused on increased circulation and not reality. Worse yet they breed a plethora of small startups who flood the market with the product below their costs thinking it will all work out if they are "good stewards' etc etc.
My advice to any farmer whose cost analysis puts them at $11 for ground beef or pork(when its $4.99 or less at Kroger )would have been to look at value-added functions for their beef or pork. For example, rather than sell ground pork, sell custom sausage. For a few cents in herbs, you can get dollars more in price. Or just quit it. You cant make it up in volume.

farming for profit
Donkey Milk soap is more profitable than the over-saturated market of goat milk soap for us.

Know Your circumstances and Work that Niche!

If you look carefully and research the "successful" smallholder farms you often see a common thread. Their products are very niche oriented. Microgreens not carrots, Heritage red meat pork not the breeds raised more efficiently in confinement. We choose our 'niche' business to be Meishan Pigs which you can read about how we came to choose them here The Heritage pig breed we had never heard of
But know that niches can have a definite shelf life. Today's trendy rare meat can be tomorrows oversupplied commodity. It can be done but you will make a lot less than your day job for a long time before you make more.
And that brings me to the "Homesteader" make money off the land, doing whatever you want myth". I can't tell you how many times I have heard this scenario'

 "We just bought three acres. Now we are going to raise all of our food and sell livestock so we can quit our jobs and live the good life of an independent farmer."

Really? Well, be advised that its a tougher gig than you think. In most cases, people woefully underestimate the land required, the livestock or crops suited to their land, the cost structure inherent to their business, and the form of indentured servitude a small business owner must endure is lost on the uninitiated. Worse if you try to warn them because then you are being negative. So be it. The hardest thing about good advice is to know when you are getting it.

One Goal at a Time!

So for us, the first goal was the subsistence model. We have progressed over almost 8 seasons of growing 90% of our own food and nutritional production. Our livestock sales contribute to reducing the cost of growing them. It is our chosen path and while its hard work we accept the stress in exchange for the benefits. We do now have our 'dream' homestead! It wasn't easy but once we knew who we were and set goals we got on the right track. You can read about that on this page Building our Dream Homestead
Once we had our first goal accomplished we looked to a niche market to move the farm to a small business model while not sacrificing the other gains we have made. Which we accomplished with our Meishan Pigs. You can take a look at them here if you like on our business website Meishan Pigs. As part of our farm business, we also started a registry for these rare 'niche' pigs A.M.B.A Meishan Breeders And if we fail it will be on us. Not because the "food and agriculture system failed us".

farming for profit
Above all enjoy the journey

Be blessed. And happy homesteading!

Join the Homesteaders Journey

The Heritage Pig Breed we had never heard of

The Heritage pig breed perfect for our homestead: Meishan pigs

The journey to finding the right livestock for our small farm has been a struggle. We never would have imagined a heritage breed pig we had never heard of would become such a big part of our homestead. But it changed everything! 
Dare I say, the Meishan was a game changer!
As we enter our 4th year with these amazing (game-changing!) pigs its nice to look back at how it all came about.

Heritage Pig Breed: American Guinea Hog
With our AGH Boar

Heritage Pig Breed: American Guinea Hog Years

 Pigs......Who would have figured? When we started this journey nine years ago I don't think that pigs were a major component in my wife's "master plan" (and this whole thing was her idea). I know the idea of being a hog breeder wasn't in my consciousness at the time. Flash forward to today and the homestead hog has become a pivotal part of our subsistence homestead model. Notice I said homestead hog. Not the highly muscled standard commercial breeds that fill the aisles at Kroger or even Whole Foods. Not that chicken eating, fence destroying, don't turn your back on, mega swine. These pigs aren't even your "new white meat", close to fat-free stuff most of us visualize when someone says pork chop. No for us the homestead hog is above all a red meat lard style carcass hog. It is a hog that's a good barnyard citizen that uses our land not abuses our land. For us to achieve the goal of raising, growing, gathering or hunting the highest percentage of our food possible (which has been as high as 95%) that success depends in many ways on our pigs and the fats they provide us. 

To that end, we had chosen the American Guinea Hog exclusively for those first four years of homesteading as the backbone fat and meat supplier in our model.  And it was working well. You see our subsistence model was based on feeding us first. Cost offset or even positive cash flow have been subservient to the subsistence goal. Oh, I know everyone tells you how their little homestead is going to grow all their food, make lots of money so they can quit their job, and be the Norman Rockwell nirvana they imagine. Yes, we talked like that too. Until reality set in after a few years of actually living it. Feed yourself or have a profitable farm business quickly became the choice forced by both available time and resources. So we choose to reach the goal of feed ourselves first. Phase one was complete.

Now phase two.

How do we take certain components of what we do and make them profitable? Because while we have driven cash flow off of our farm we are just offsetting costs not covering them. Oh and if you are reading this and you are in that Norman Rockwell phase let me give you some advice. Don't quit your day job.
So how do we take something we do and not lose its value to us while increasing its value to the bottom line?
Once again the pig is where we turned. Specifically one of the oldest domesticated breeds of the hog in the world. Despite hours of research on pig breeds, this was the heritage pig breed we had never heard of! 

The Meishan Pig

Heritage Pig Breed; Meishan
                                     Meishan Pigs at The USDA research center in Nebraska

The Meishan pig was once the focus of an intensive study by the USDA, Iowa State and The University of Illinois beginning in 1989. This study spanned over a decade. You see the Meishan pig is a Chinese hog breed that has been selectively bred to produce high levels of succulent fat for thousands of years. They are also unique in that they are a "hyper-productive".While most heritage hog breed have litters of 4-8 piglets and Commercial breeds target 10-13 Meishan routinely have 15-18 piglets. One Meishan in the USDA study had 28 piglets in one litter. They also enter puberty in 90-120 days as opposed to the 6-10 months of many breeds. It took years of negotiations and literally millions of dollars to bring 33 Meishan sows and some Meishan (among other) boars to the US. The pigs proved that their hyper-productivity could increase the productivity of other breeds. The problem was that Meishan is a lard carcass and the crosses had increased levels of fat. Remember in the 90's the USDA (the same people who told us Crisco was good for us) were trying to create the super lean rooting machines we have today. The poor Meishan was deemed to have outlived its research value at one of the research facilities and around 2008-2010 the Iowa State herd was dispersed.
 The Iowa State herd was scattered, some were completely lost, some watered down by other breeds. In fact, the lard carcass genetics of many breeds (AGH, Old Line Berkshire, Large Black etc) also fell into disfavor and entire breeds were almost lost. The drawing below is a representation of what Berkshire hogs USED to look like.
Heritage pig breed Berkshire

 The remaining herds at the University of Illinois and at the USDA Meat Animal research center remained sequestered from the average farmer until the spring of 2016 when we acquired the last of those herds.

The Return of Flavor and True Healthy Fats

Today everyone from the foodies to health awareness groups to the Paleo way of eating are the driving the resurrection of pasture-raised fat. Restaurants who want to create tasty exclusive charcuteries cry for fattier red meat pork in a world of dry white wallboard that the USDA grading systems of pork have given us. Check out this article from Weston Price about traditional fats

Those few surviving red meat lard breeds like AGH are poorly suited to American butcher cuts. Plus the slow growth and small liters make them poorly suited to many smallholder economic models for sale. If there was only a heritage pig breed that had large litters, a decent grow out rate and still give higher levels of healthy sweet and delicious fat. Being docile and having a low impact on the land was also on the list. I can't have an animal on my farm that I fear and busts through fences like so many pig breeds do.

We are happy to have found that the Meishan IS that heritage pig breed

Heritage Pig Breed Meishan
                                                Angie meeting "Chiyo and Pumpkin"

It took a long time to research, locate, negotiate and obtain our first certified pure  Meishan stock traceable directly to the original USDA herd. On December 10th, 2015  our boar "Mr Wu" and 2 unrelated gilts "Chiyo" and "Pumpkin" joined the family here.
Heritage Pig Breed : Meishan Pig
                                                                   "Mr. Wu"

Future of Small Farm Pork Producers

Now if you had told me six years ago that I would make the effort, and the investment to obtain pig genetics I might have laughed you out of the room. Alas, homestead planning rarely follows the original homesteading path. The preservation of Meishan Genetics(which are irreplaceable in the US) calls to me. Yes, I had a vision but mostly I have a gut feeling that these pigs are too important to be lost. And no I don't run a museum I run a farm. At the end of this journey, I hope and I am gambling on the idea that these pigs can play an important part in the small farm movement efforts to help people in producing their own food and be profitable if they wish to also run a small farm business. These pigs can also improve many different breeds as F1 crosses that can benefit the smallholder.
The Meishan pig has been recognized and listed as Critically Endangered by the Livestock Conservancy and you can read what they have to say about them to as they join the efforts to save the genetics Livestock Conservancy on Meishan Pigs
To avoid inbreeding depression and so breeders can make informed decisions the AMBA has been established and is helping breeders and producers across the country learn about Meishan pigs. You can read more about their efforts here A.M.B.A.
The Meishans even have their our Wikipedia info page now! Wikipedia: The Meishan Pig

Heritage pig breeds: Meishans

So began the project. Our first leg of the Meishan herd was established. Here are two other posts about how we obtained the last of the Illinois Meishans and the last of the USDA Meishans. Neither had previously been released to the public.
Saving Heritage Pig Genetics: Meishans
and Heritage Pig Breed: Meishan
Heritage Pig Breed Meishan

 But before you think I claim this as originally thought its already being done in different places at different levels. There are already forward-thinking breeders using Meishan(along with other lard breeds like Mangalista) to fix the pork the USDA "improved". Our efforts are a small drip in a tidal wave of a pork revolution that has already quietly begun. I hope we are good stewards of these and all of our animals. And that is part of my daily prayers to the Lord. Looking forward to keeping a log of the journey.  That's all from Gods Blessing Farm today..... just a little look back. It's nice to look back on Homestead projects. It truly is a journey, as well as a blessing!
If you would like to be on our Meishan Tales Email list to keep up with litter announcements and information on growing and caring for Meishans you can sign up on this page over at our other site
Meishan Tales Email List

 One of the original gilts from the Iowa lines.

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Selling Livestock as a business

Selling Livestock as a business on a homestead. What worked for us and what didn't! #homestead #smallfarm #sellinglivestock

Things to Consider if Selling Livestock needs to make money for your farm.

Most homesteads raise some animals for meat, maybe some for milk, and some for fiber.
Having meat/milk animals means you will have to breed them and you will have some to sell, in hopes to cover the cost of raising and/or milking them.
Even with fiber animals many times you will need to breed them to make extra money to cover their feed since making enough money off raw fiber sales is next to impossible with feed and hay being so expensive some years.

If you have animals that live on pasture alone...and you have pasture all year... well... you are lucky but you probably still have to vaccinate, worm them have medicines (or herbs) and may have vet bills if they get sick. If you have sheep or alpacas you will have to buy an expensive shearing tool or hire a shearer and pray its a good one that takes bio-security pre-cautions with their shears and blades.
There are so many hidden costs in livestock! Multipurpose animals and breeding are just necessary for it all to work most of the time.

Example: I like Alpaca fiber and I had Alpacas for a very short time and this is one of the reasons I sold them. I figured it cost me around $105 a year to keep a non-breeding fiber male gelding Alpaca with mid-grade wool (of which these days the market is saturated) not to mention the management of the animal and my time. He will give me about 4 lbs of prime wool and maybe 2 lbs of seconds... I can buy good mid-grade wool for around $8 lb and a huge bag of seconds for $5. So $37... easy-peasy I got my alpaca fiber with no work or time spent keeping an animal healthy and fed. Then I've got more $ to spent else where!
So just keeping Alpacas for fiber doesn't add up for me. To make Alpacas work I would need to breed to help cover the cost to just break even. I would need Registered stock in order to get the highest prices possible for babies and help ensure they would be better homes.
Honestly, I would need to invest up front in not only registered stock but registered stock with lower micron counts and higher quality fiber than mid-grade! So then I could get more per pound for their fiber.
Because there is no meat outlet for the extra boys, the year a male is born probably means I might now make money or break even. I might even lose money breeding that year if say my fiber was ruined for some reason or another (like it felted or was extra dirty!)
But I might break even or even make some money if I turned that higher quality fiber into yarn or roving. Its ALOT to take on as part of a small homestead business.
However, keeping Alpacas was not for me for many reasons other than money but I do know fiber farmers who make it work with this model. It's not an easy road since alpacas are flooding the market. It brings down prices all over when that happens.

Profitable livestock and their products for a homestead
Handspun art yarns can be a very profitable side hustle for a creative individual on the homestead. But the rest of the numbers need to add up too!

Trending Livestock

What livestock is hot and trendy (yes, livestock has trends!) today may be worth half tomorrow, or even bottom out to the point people are just turning them loose or giving them away (example: Miniature horses, Nigerian dwarf goats, 'pet' pigs with no purpose,  llamas, certain breeds of sheep,..yep alpacas!)
This happens especially when an animal is bred and has no 'meat' purpose. Too many animals bred, too many geldings with no homes because they can't all be studs and no one needs a bunch of studs!
If the male has no purpose or his purpose isn't valuable, a huge problem of a saturated market happens and hurts everyone. Including the animals! When there is no outlet for those that don't make the cut as a breeder overstocking leads to bottomed out livestock markets.
Then you also don't have meat outlets for money. So when a male is born you're in the hole cost wise many times!
Now true, you could process extra animals with no market for your own meat! I know people who have done this. But thats a whole other set of skills and equipment I personally never wanted to get into. Processing poultry, waterfowl, and rabbits ourselves was enough for me!
Might be a solution for you if you if you've got the equipment/know how.

Trending livestock can be great for a homestead but only if breeding is done with a purpose and the extra males have a market. Cause no, they all don't make wonderful pets for people!
Getting in on the front end of the trend with a multipurpose livestock animal can mean excellent income for many years! For example the recently imported embryos of the Valais Blacknose Sheep
They will not only bring top dollar for lambs for many many years but their semen from purebred rams will be top dollar and their wool will bring top dollar! Its an investment, but if you're into niche wool sheep its an investment that will pay off for years!!
Especially if a meat demand is established so no one has to be overrun with extra males or poor producing females! Much like the Icelandic sheep breeders did, which is a sheep that has been here for years. A fantastic multipurpose sheep with niche wool for handspinners, a lamb meat market in demand and an excellent choice for sheep milk (trust me it's amazing!)! Read about one homestead dream come true here with this amazing sheep Icelandic Sheep for Profit
Despite being here for many years the registered Icelandic sheep still brings way more than an unregistered cross. I've had both, and yes when I decided I needed to let the sheep go to pursue other goals I actually made money on the registered stock I resold. Plus I made money from the wool and had plenty of meat.
Profitable livestock on the homestead

Maximizing with multiple outlets and purebred livestock

So point is, you might  will have to maximize your livestock potential earnings on the homestead to make it work if you want to make actual cash flow. Most people have the idea of homesteading that is living off the land and raising animals that pay for themselves and hopefully make a little extra to expand things here and there.

Most do not start their homestead dream with the idea of continuing to go to work to pay a feed bill for animals that do not pay for themselves. If this is your idea of homesteading than its a hobby, not a business. Nothing wrong with that!! My miniature horses are not a business, they make us no money. They are for my enjoyment, farm work, personal milking and that's fine with me!

But if you buy an animal and it must pay for itself or even profit in order for your dream homestead to work you have to consider where the money is going to come from first! What is the market for these products or animals you want in your area? Is there a market that can be tapped into over the internet?  Be observant! Very Observant!

Selling Products from your livestock

If you want to sell meat, to who? Where are the customers? Don't say farmers markets.. they are becoming more and more like local craft fairs in many cities. Many successful meat farmers I know have to have several outlets for their meat to really profit. Check regulations for you state thoroughly. Do any small local based health and grocery stores carry local products? That may be a better bet and will be less time than spending the day at a market. Again be observant about outlets for the products from your livestock. Don't just assume your going to have a meat business or milk CSA. Do others in your area? Is there an outlet? A demand?
Ofcourse if you have dairy animals or lard hogs soap is a great small farm business to consider that can be marketed to alot of people! Check out my No Fail Goat Milk Soap Recipe to get started! I've made really nice profits from my soap 'side hustle' over the years.

Selling Breeding Stock to other farmers

Where will you sell the breeding quality livestock you will have available? Is the market already saturated, is there a demand? Going prices?
 If you have invested in a rare livestock breed you may not have a local market at all.
Thankfully the internet can help there. But how does anyone know you're there with things to sell?
Don't say Facebook.. getting in groups and advertising livestock to people who already have livestock , who are trying to sell you livestock is not the best option! Trust ME!
So then you will need an internet business plan. Time consuming , yes, necessary for success, absolutely! Building a website isn't that hard these days either.

Invest In the Best

Always buy purebred and registered (if a registry is available some rare breeds don't have a registry yet) Even If your goal is to just break even never buy crosses.
If you just want an animal that doesn't have to pay for itself then buy crosses all day. But if you want them to pay for themselves and especially if you need to profit, buy pure.. buy registered. I can not stress that enough. 

 I know I know... and I do understand! You may not want to spend the extra money on an animal that doesn't work out. I went down that road too unfortunately.
But, Here's the thing about that... if you buy purebred and if it doesn't work out you are more likely to get your money back out of it.
Purebred and registered (if a registry is available) will always bring more and be in more demand than crossed and unregistered.
There has been more than one occasion where I've invested in pure breeds and then decided it isn't working out and I've sold them for more than I paid! Because the other thing is purebred rare livestock and registered animals have a much much wider market. People will travel across states for them! No one is traveling from TX to TN for a cross piglet,, but they will for a purebred registered one.. trust me on this too because I do speak from personally experience many times over on this subject.
There were also plenty of times I bought crosses or so-called pure but unregistered and lost my butt when I tried to sell them. Or worse ended up having to process them because we couldn't sell them even for less! hard lessons learned...and much money was lost.
A good place to start learning about rare, purebred animals is the Livestock Conservancy

Selling profitable livestock on a homestead.
Case Study: French Angora Rabbit above here. Known as a dual purpose rabbit. They are not super rare but by buying high fiber quality bloodlines and pedigreed stock I was able to have a very healthy cash flow with them. They didn't work out for other reasons, my time was too committed to other things but when I sold my herd I made money on their resale too. You can read about why they didn't work for me but they may work for you here Raising Rabbits for meat and Fiber

Case Study: The Meishan pig breed has only been available to the American public for a short time. Its an incredible hog for a small farmer! Its registry is working hard to build a demand for its unique red meat which makes a superior charcuterie and an elegant meal. You can read more about that at the American Meishan Breeders Association
Selling meat from your homestead
Meishan Meat, Not your typical dry white pork!

Now Brainstorm!

Now that you have some things to consider get out a notepad and make notes!
Keep notes on potential livestock that can help your homestead dream come true and notes on the what , where and how much points of your available markets and outlets.

Y'all have an awesome weekend!
Selling Livestock as a business on your homestead. What worked for us and what didn't! #farmbusiness #homesteader #sellinglivestock

Confessions of a homesteader

The realities of homesteading, can you save money? Can you make money homesteading?

You see, seven years ago when I wanted to homestead I had several specific goals in mind and I had a question... Could we raise the majority of our own food? So this was our main goal... to raise as much of our food as we possibly could.

The goal was accomplished a couple years ago!! We were rolling!! Producing over 90% of all the food we consumed!! We rarely darkened the grocery stores doors. And even then it was only to buy coffee, chocolate and paper products!
Yes, it was quite an accomplishment!! It wasn't easy. It was the most brutal thing I've ever done.. rewarding though?? yes..well, of course at times! Who doesn't like to meet a goal! And yes, the food is good!
But mostly it was brutally hard, no breaks or vacations. Tons of stress.
And as I've said this before, it's like living on a job site where nothing is ever done. Think about it.. would you want to live at your place of employment?

Harsh Realities about Money
Also, I did want to see if homesteading would save us money and most of it really didn't at all!!  This is a great misconception when people get into farming. Especially in livestock farming. You will quickly realize their feed store bill is as much ( or more) as their grocery store bill. Think about it,, if it was really cheaper and such a fun simple life wouldn't everyone be doing it? Don't believe the hype about all animals working together... another kind of animal means another learning curve and a new set of problems to avoid..and another mouth to feed.  If farming multi-species livestock and mono-cropping weren't good at producing mass amounts of food more easily and cheaper big ag wouldn't do it! You can not buy supplies and feed as cheaply as big ag... end of story. So if you're thinking of making farming livestock/meat a profitable business you better have something extra special. More on that in other posts because yes! there are plenty of possibilities to be profitable with a small farm with livestock if its done right.

But, If your only reason to raise livestock is to save money, you will probably be very disappointed for the most part. I'm not even talking equipment and infrastructure here... its mind blowing what farm equipment costs!!! Even with our cheap DIY hacks, things for farming are just expensive and livestock always finds a way to tear something new up... especially goats, most pigs (not meishans) and rams. Oh, don't get me started on rams!!
Thankfully we do not depend on our farm to produce income to pay all our bills (just some!), but we also can't go broke feeding livestock. We would have long had to give up the goal if we had! So no, we didn't go to the grocery store for much, but the workers at the feed store know my husband by name!
There are very few kinds of livestock that you can raise that will actually bring in more money than they cost to keep up. But they are out there and I made really good profits on them! Yes, yes! More posts on that too!

There is hope though!
The garden will save you money, lots of money if you're big veggie eaters like us! Especially if

  1. You start your own seeds, 
  2. Only plant things that do well in your area!
  3. Keep it going all year 4 season gardening is where it's at honey
  4. Learn to preserve, preserve, preserve!
  5. Know your enemies and be prepared to battle them. Some garden pest can wipe out a crop overnight!
  6. You must have an excellent and huge fertilizer source to grow all your own veggies (I'm talking grain corn to here too, a huge nutrient hog!). I had goats, rabbits, sheep, llamas and still not enough manure to properly fertilize my expansive 4 season gardens. I did composting, cover crops, manure, comfy teas and We still had to truck in manure! It wasn't until I added equine that I had enough fertilizer to keep my veggies happy. Which by the way manure is a good extra income source if you don't garden on your homestead and want to sell it! I should know I used to have to buy enough of it!

Can homesteading save you money?

There's an investment in infrastructure and equipment there too. Much time and sweat to build good soil. Still no walk in the park and the break even point will vary depending on what infrastructure and equipment you've invested in.
Ultimately it will depend on how good you actually are at gardening.
If you're good at it and love it you can make a good income from Market Gardening. I know many who do! Here's one of my favorite resources for that subject Growing for Market

 Another Reality 
Some people do not realize this but You may or may not get a better quality of food depending on what and how your raising your livestock or how you're growing your gardens. If you feed your livestock cheap junk you're probably not going to be eating any healthier than you could have bought at the store. If you don't feed your soil your veggies won't do well nor will they be high in nutrients for you. You will know how the animal was treated and that's very important too.

There are lots of stresses in farming which in my case has been the worst possible thing for my health. All the healthy food in the world won't help you if you stay stressed out all the time! I can promise you that! So we made some changes.. and I had to learn to destress... 7 years with no days off can do that to a person.

We decided last year that it was time to do other things. To focus on a real farm 'business' (which has taken off!) and the things that truly made a difference.
Finding balance that will allow for time away if we want or recreation here on the farm without feeling like we are dropping the ball on something.
Its been the best choice I've made in a long time. I finally feel like my farm is my home and not my employer.
7 years is a long time for no vacations, no time off when the work itself is so hard. Both physically and emotionally. Maybe it won't affect you like it did me but it is certainly something to consider.

Still Feeling Blessed on the Homestead!

Managing the stress of farming is as important as it is for any job

Don't misunderstand...I've enjoyed much of the journey and thankfully my husband didn't let us go broke in the process! (He's the numbers guy! and I'm extra thankful because I am not so good at that stuff!)
But its just really time to focus on the only things that make a difference to our income and the betterment of our lifestyle.

 I'm very blessed to have been given the opportunity to reach the goal I set of growing over 90% of all our food. I'm very thankful!!
I've loved much of it and learned SO much! I LOVE that we accomplished this despite its difficulties and stresses. In a 'have to' situation I know what I can grow and how to use the many skills I've acquired reaching the goal. 
And I know wha iss realistic about farming and growing.. and what is simply hobby farm legend. 

Its just time to make this a home again, not a production plant with never ending work and endless livestock feed bills. 
Enjoy the farm and the truly beautiful land I've been blessed to have. 
I often see people who move to the farm and rave about how they love the person they become, they are a different person on farm...and its true. Farming changes you. Sometimes good, but sometimes not...
 I personally never disliked the person I was and I decided I'd like to get some of that easy going, stress-free girl back!! 

I have been led to many things over these years... successes and failures all led me to where I am.
And I'm thankful for very thankful! God is Good!

And He certainly never said growing food would be easy... Genesis 3:17-19

Nope He never said that 🤣

No Fail Basic Goat Milk Soap recipe

After over 4 yrs making & selling soap.... goat milk soap, lard soaps, tallow soaps,herbal soaps, vegan soaps, sheep milk soap...etc., I have alot of tried and true formulas for soaps!
But this formula/recipe right here started it all!
It makes a small 1 lb batch of soap.
Its my easy peasy go to and never fail goat milk soap recipe.

Basic Goat Milk Soap 

10 ounces Lard
4 ounces Coconut Oil 
2 ounces Olive Oil 

2.3 ounces lye 
3.08 ounces water
3 ounces Goat Milk

1 ounce fragrance/essential oil (optional)
color can also be used, I use natural colorants from herbals or minerals 

Basic Cold Process Directions: 

1. Wearing rubber gloves/ safety glasses and a surgical mask careful not to breathe in fumes. If weather allows I do this outside.
Measure your goat milk/water into one glass bowl.
Measure lye, Pour lye into the water/goat milk SLOWLY while stirring with a whisk (never pour water into lye) - this will heat up quickly, Set aside to cool
*To keep milk from burning and turning orange I use some ice cubes as part of my water measurement . Lower butterfat milk such as Alpine seems to blend better and not turn as bad.

2. In another pot , Melt oils together 

3. When oils are approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit and lye water/milk is approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit, gently pour lye into oils (never pour oils into lye) Blend with stick blender... 
please have safety glasses and gloves on!!!

4. Mix until soap traces. 

5. Add essential/fragrance oil and color (optional)

6. Pour into prepared molds ..I use wood molds, they need to be lined with freezer paper.

7. Cover with plastic wrap. 

8. Allow to stand covered and out of drafts for 24 hours

9. Remove form molds, let air dry another 24 hours and cut as desired

10. Allow to age in open air for about 3 to 4 weeks before using 


Once you have it down now you can take this basic recipe and make it your own... different scents and colors to customize it.

Also, If you Do not want to use lard replacing it with palm oil works for this recipe too. It will not be as gentle of a soap, but it will still be nicer than anything you can buy at the store!

Happy soaping! If you have any questions just ask :-)

Creating Farm Businesses

From homestead to small subsistence farm and now to the farm business.
Our wild ride in different homesteading/farming ventures has been a blast of successes and crushing times of utter defeats! 
Now this new year,  as I've stated in other posts, brings more changes and it feels so overwhelming but totally exciting.
For 2017 Gods Blessing Farm is now Gods Blessing Farm LLC. 

The milking donkey herd is getting bigger and the donkey milk soap business is a major undertaking. You can try some out yourself here Donkey Milk Soap
Check out my board for some soap making business ideas if its a business you are thinking about!  Soap Making Business

The Ever Changing Homestead 

For this to get bigger other things must get smaller. Management of time has never been more critical. So there will be No other dairy animal projects and no additional poultry projects.
To be honest, Over the years I'm realizing that my gardening and poultry efforts are ...
Well.... A bit too large! 
Ok much too large!!! 2 people do not need to raise over 80 goslings a year with no intent to sell them!
And 2 people do not need the huge and extensive amounts of food I grow in my garden.

So these things get much smaller and some things will get eliminated.
Other dairy animals I wanted, unfortunately, there's no time for me to dedicate there. The donkey milk is superior in skin care and I can't digest other milk like donkey milk so the focus has to be on what keeps me healthy and makes the best product. 

I'll raise about half of the grain corn and veggies that I raised last year and the more difficult things to grow, like things that aren't right for this climate but I've learned hacks to grow them anyways, will not be planted. 
I love my gardens and growing but I got to refocus on what most important. The ever-changing goals of the homesteader! 

I will only incubate some quail next fall for replacements but all other hatchings will be left to the birds themselves. Thankfully my Pilgrim geese and Muscovy ducks are excellent mothers and need no help from me!
My poultry efforts will be very very tiny.

I feel good that we reached an amazing goal of growing over 90% of our own foods here. This year that will be a smaller number. I'm good with that and looking forward to local sourcing from other farmers what I've decided to no longer grow. 
I feel the need to move on to other farm goals and challenges. I feel like these challenges have been put in from of me for a reason and I need to pursue them. 

Check out my Pilgrim goose post here though. Best goos ever! The Pilgrim Goose

The Meishan Pig Business 

My husbands' farm challenges and goals with the Meishans have also grown and changed somewhat. The Meishan offers opportunities that the American Guinea hogs could not offer. 
Having to be given the opportunity to preserve these extremely rare, diverse genetics and get them into the hands of other farmers is a huge undertaking. 
When I saw my husbands breeding schedule for the 2017 Meishans it was terrifying at first look!! 
The Meishans are a big part of the farm business. They are such wonderful pigs that I don't even mind having half our farm be a *pig farm*! 

He's put a lot of work into them. If you would like to learn more he has a great youtube channel where you can see them in action.. or lack of action! Meishan sleep a lot!

They are mostly my husbands' responsibility and as the Meishans get bigger other stuff he does must get smaller. It's all about balance and dedication to the opportunity given.  

There's much to be organized, much to be built and expanded and certainly, much to be learned with these new farm ventures we believe the Lord has led us too. 
It's a new day.... 
God is Good