It takes a lot of equipment to farm here. And therefore, a decent amount of incoming capital. Enter here yet another of the reasons why we are a organic dairy and even further, with Organic Valley, where quality is rewarded with premiums. I have toyed with the idea many a time of raising grass fed beef, mainly in weak moments when I doubt my ability to manage everything that goes into a dairy and I am not the Superman that is my dad.
The problem then becomes the financial model and what would provide regular incoming capital. Have I done a full financial analysis? No. But in conversations with my dad we’ve discussed the reality of farming here; without a regular monthly milk check, I’m really not sure how we could maintain the capital otherwise to continue the farm.
Whenever I think about capital and expenses, my heart goes out to other farming folk, particularly those we know who are still in the conventional world and barely making it.
We are incredibly fortunate. Our farm has been here since 1868 and we have no mortgage. We are able to barter land use more often than not. We have a ridiculously affordable source of kiln dried sawdust for bedding and we feel it contributes greatly to our herd health – which of course keeps the milk check steady. We have had a closed herd for decades. Not only do we not need to buy animals, but Organic Prairie recently implemented a cull cow program in this area so we’re able to sell our cull cows for organic beef prices, an amazing benefit. We are able to put up our all of our own forage and only need to purchase grain off farm. We’re currently working with Organic Valley’s nutritionist to ensure we’re using grain only when needed for production and nothing more.
One of dad’s neatest tricks is his usage of antique tractors. An antique John Deere can be purchased for a fraction of what a new one costs and they’re amazingly fuel efficient! (Which means even more savings in fuel costs.) Also, a bit of a pain in the neck, but they work. They simply require a bit of a learning curve as they are not the most intuitive machines to operate and are a LOT different than newer models. We are a John Deere farm in terms of the tractors we purchase and our supplemental equipment is John Deere, Houle.