I began this post on Thanksgiving Day, but did not get it finished in one sitting.....imagine that......
Well, my wife and kids have left me....not for good.....to go to see family in Philadelphia area. I am here taking care of the animals. We left the farm as a family for the first time in 8 years last week. We took 4 days and went to Washington DC. It was a nice trip and we are thankful that we had such great help with the animals while we were away. Thanks Dad and Cindy! After that trip, I did not figure I could handle being away again. So I have stayed back. We still have plenty to do, but the animals are all in their winter homes. We have begun feeding the cows silage in the barn. They do look forward to it. Next to pasture, it is their favorite meal. Having all the animals in the barn does create a small dilemma, however. Over the past 5 years our goal has been to grow the herd to produce enough calves to replace our sale animals. While we are not quite there yet, we do have more heads than feed panels in the barn. I will be adding another panel tomorrow to take care of the situation. We have had a couple of great calving years. Our herd has grown a little quicker than we expected. But we built the barn to be added to, so the issue will be resolved tomorrow morning when I get another panel and install it. Then all our animals will be able to eat together again, not in shifts.
Reflection on our year to date will drive our production for next year. Some changes will be made, some things will stay the same, some will get bigger. Winter months give us time to think about our goals for the next year, crunch all the numbers (we don't get to them all during the summer), and decide where to go from here. On the list this winter is pasture expansion, turkeys (we may not be raising them next year), vegetables, and pigs. Let me elaborate a little.
Pasture expansion--did I mention our herd is growing? We are at our maximum capacity for cattle as we speak. We will be getting rid of some this winter, but they have been replaced with 12 calves that will be growing next summer. And we will be calving another 7 in the spring. We need more grass. Don't worry, though. We have it all figured out. We are planning a pretty big expansion project for the spring that will gain us another 20 acres of pasture. That will help out greatly with our numbers. It is our goal to have enough animals to take care of our meat customers, but also to sell as seedstock producers. We would like to sell bred heifers in the future. We need more grass to make this possible. So, that is in the works.
Turkeys-- while we had a phenomenal year for our birds, we are not sure if the turkey business is in our route. Today's turkey dinner was delicious! It almost makes me rethink my original thoughts of giving the birds up. However, we cannot do it all, and the turkeys take a lot more than we have to give. All of our equipment is chicken size. A 30 pound turkey is tough to process in our facility. I do not think that I want to upgrade. It was also pretty cold last Saturday processing the birds. Unless something drastically changes between now and June, I do not anticipate turkeys next summer.
Vegetables---we had briefly thought about expanding to the veggie market. We are done with that. We like to raise animals. We are sticking with them. The small scale vegetables can go to someone else. We will be raising our row crops (sweet corn, potatoes, and beans), but the rest is not for our operation.
Pigs----we would like to get back in the pig business a little more. We have 2 really nice gilts and a boar to start the new herd off right. We will be building some pig pastures this spring/summer to house them in and go from there. I do not see any issues with us getting back into hogs.
Chickens---they are definitely here to stay. We would like to increase our production this coming year. We had a fantastic year this year and believe that there are enough wiling customers to sell more next year.
Eggs---we will keep our production up this summer. Hopefully we will not have the mistimed molt of this year. We have a new set of layers going right now. They should lay right though next summer.