Raising pastured broilers is one part of our very diverse farm. 2015 will be the third year in a row that we have done a combination Pastured Poultry CSA as well as selling pastured broilers retail at farmers markets and wholesale. It has been a great part of our operation as it take very little money to start up, it is great for reclaiming and conditioning pastures, and it fits in nicely with the other things we have going on at the farm. That and we're kind of the only show in town for pastured poultry at the moment, which doesn't hurt.
Every year my numbers get a little more refined. This year I have got even better than in the past at putting my yearly budget together. I know that with the efforts of the Farm Finance Challenge they will be a piece of cake to put together next year. The video above and this post are the numbers as best as I can put them together this year. If you scroll to the bottom of the post you have the option to enter your name and e-mail address to get the broiler section of the excel file that I am referencing.
Creating your broiler budget:
When I am sitting down to do any budget I treat the piece of notebook paper, the excel sheet, or whatever I am using as a blank canvas. It doesn't matter what I am putting where because I am creating it for myself. I can change it to suit my needs whenever I want. The trick is to get it started and to get some real work done each time you open it. Add a little, walk away, come back, add a little more. The point of the whole thing is to get usable numbers for yourself. After all, you are doing this for your farm not just for fun.
Start with just thinking about all the element that would go into creating your budget and keep adding them into your budget sheet. At some point you are going to run out of things to add and you will have you "final" numbers. It might take you some time, it might require a fair amount of research, but each year it will get better, I promise.
What things did I include in my budget?:
- How many chickens I intend to raise
- What breeds
- Numbers of batches or rotations
- How much feed
- How much labor
- How many processing dates
- Quarterly breakdown for cash-flow
- What I get price per pound retail
I basically went through everything I would need to know to raise broilers and pulled from my records or other people's information (current price of feed) to populate my budget sheet. From there it was just a matter of creating the necessary equations as I went to get the numbers that I needed to end up with. Those were Gross Profit and Net Profit. After all, this document was created to see if I was going to be able to keep the farm at the end of the year.
This is going to certainly be an area of debate, and I mention it a little in the video. I figure for $12 an hour in my budgets for any operation. That doesn't mean I always pay $12 an hour or that I am actually getting paid $12 an hour. It has just worked out to a nice round number for labor for me. Throughout 2015 we will be more closely tracking how many man hours are spent on any given operation throughout the year to get a better sense of what is required.
There are things like volunteer days, mishaps and nature, apprentices, full time staff, and friends of the farm to consider. When you are figuring the numbers on any farm there are certainly areas where it can get murky and labor can be one of them on a small farm. The best I can figure out is that $12 number. If you have a better way please leave a comment in the comments section below and let me know what you do.
Chicken feed costs:
Because the price of feed fluctuates what you budget and what actually happens can differ. I currently get my feed from Morrison's Feeds in Vermont and I used the latest price of their feed off their website to do my budget. I do have another potential non-GMO feed supplier close by that may be able to get me feed a little cheaper because they are closer but that's not locked down yet. For now I want to figure on the higher price. Better to be prepared and do better than to count on a good price and have to pay more and not have the cash on hand.
I have gone seasons where I kill every bird on farm with the knife in my hand for each one. This past season I chose to get the birds processed off farm for a number of reasons. The main reason was that having a USDA approved stamp on my chickens opened up other markets for me. In Connecticut the State laws make it almost impossible to operate any small business successfully and poultry farming is no different. We have been making baby steps in recent years but we still haven't caught up to our neighbors to the West or the North.
The place I currently take them costs me $4.75-$5.25 per bird depending on how I have them packaged. That gives me the average of $5 per chicken. It also takes me 2.5 hours to drive there, woof. You may not need all that where you are.
Some of the other benefits of "out-sourcing" my processing is that my liability of someone getting hurt or sick is lower, I don't have to pay a crew, I don't have to take all the lives myself, and I get to spend a day in an internet cafe and get caught up on office work. Will this be my forever plan? Who knows? It's going to have to work for now until I can figure out something better.
How I raise my chickens:
For my cornish cross broilers I raise them in chicken tractors out on pasture. The chicken tractor is my own design created to suite my needs and very adaptable to wherever you may be farming.
I feed certified organic feed that is also non-GMO. The farm is not certified organic but it may be something that we will be working toward in the future. I buy in chicks as day-old from Meyer Hatchery, raise them in the brooder for 2-3 weeks and them move them out to pasture for the remainder of their lives. I often process at 8 weeks old and I get a finished weight of 4-5 pounds on average.
For more information about my chicken tractor plans and the farm that I started using them on click here or the banner below.
My current farm is Camps Road Farm. I was hired as the farm manager there (here?) and I could not be happier. Pastured broilers are part of a very diverse operation including hops, apples, layers, pigs, sheep, foraged foods, vegetables, and events. We are still raising broilers in the FoodCyclist style tractors that made the trip from my original farm.
What I hope to improve on in time:
No one will ever know everything there is to know about anything. I cam constantly learning and through that learning I am striving to make every operation on my farm better. As part of improving the farm we are taking part in the 2015 Farm Finance Challenge. We will be increasingly diligent about our record keeping both in the field and in the office. I am already looking forward to next year when the 2016 budget has already bee created by the 2015 numbers.
Record keeping is something all farmers struggle with and that was the reason the FFC was created. I am working on improving and so are the other farms that are taking the challenge with me. It's kind of exciting! This blog post comes out in the beginning of January 2015. Depending on when you are reading it we may already be underway. I invited you to check out the challenge, help to hold me accountable to my record keeping and reporting goals, and support the other farms that are taking the dive with me.