2022: What a Year!
Nearly everyone makes a resolution or at least spends some time reflecting this time of year. The ending of one year and beginning of another is a great time to reflect on accomplishments and set goals. The farm is no different. 2022 was a whirlwind of a year that saw some massive changes for the farm that will pay dividends for years to come.
Three big ticket items were marked off the wish list this year. First, we completed a 40X60 shed for parking equipment and storing raw materials. This space gives us much greater flexibility for short term equipment storage as well as a place to keep feed ingredients together and close to the mixing area. It's an added bonus that the shiny new building makes the barnyard look a little nicer too!
Next, we completely reworked the main cattle barn. This job required relocating waterers, pouring concrete, building new fencing and hanging new gates. The end result is a barn that is a lot more flexible. I can sort a group of steers with one or two people safely and efficiently. It results in a lot less stress on the animals and myself. With the relocated waterer, there is also a lot of flexibility to create strong temporary pens. This will be handy if I have an animal or group of animals that need special attention.
Finally, we completely automated our feeding process for both cattle and hogs! This project involved building two feed bins with automatic discharge augers, installing electronic equipment and apps to control the augers, internet cameras to monitor the process, and wiring the main barn for Wi-Fi. With this project complete, I can mix two weeks worth of feed at one time and completely eliminate manually daily feeding with shovels or buckets. The whole process now happens automatically each day via the app on my phone. The time savings is huge! it also allows more flexibility to travel or to turn attention to other farm projects without neglecting the animals.
The farm has grown tremendously the past few years, especially meat sales and feed sales. This past year we set records for sales in both areas! In fact, beef sales have grown from only using a percentage of our calves each year for beef just a few years ago to using all of them in 2022.
Increased sales are great for a small business, but it also creates another problem. The more meat and feed we sell, the more time it takes to produce those products. You may have noticed that one word kept coming up when discussing all of the projects for 2022--flexibility.
We are fortunate that our off-farm jobs have a rotating schedule that affords more days off than a traditional schedule, but we still struggle to get everything done sometimes. The investments for the year all help make the business more efficient and save time. While the day may come when someone needs to make the farm their full-time job (and we hope it does!), the steps taken this year help to take some of the pressure off as we continue to grow.
As we turn our focus to 2023, the future looks bright for the farm. Meat and feed demand continue to trend upward. We anticipate completely selling out of beef in 2023! Bulk beef and pork reservations are live on the website for the first half of the new year. Bulk slots for the second half of the year will be posted soon based on product availability. In order to fill our monthly meat bundle obligations and standing orders, bulk slots may be limited for the second half of 2023.
What about prices?
I made the unfortunate mistake of being in a grocery store on Christmas Eve! While there, I took a look at the meat case. Many of our products are currently priced at or below the price of similar items in the supermarket meat case. This doesn't necessarily mean I need to immediately raise prices. I like being as competitively priced as possible. It saves our customers a little money and, perhaps, removes a barrier for a new customer to try our products for the first time.
The cost of inputs such as fertilizers, fuel, soybean meal and supplements is extremely volatile, so our actual costs to produce meat change almost weekly! While I can't make any promises about future price increases, I can promise to keep prices as low as I can and to give advance notice if a price adjustment becomes necessary. You won't get that kind of guarantee at the supermarket!
Happy New Year from my family to yours. I know you have many options for feeding your families, both local and non-local, and we appreciate your trust and loyalty. My optimism for the coming year is entirely due to your patronage, and for that I'm grateful this new year.