How would you recommend I get started?

Baymule

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You have to find your niche, your customers and what they are willing to pay. We raised Cornish Cross chickens last spring, had one customer. They paid $5 a pound for parted out, vacuum sealed chicken. We butchered 44, they bought 10. I took the backs, necks, heart, liver and gizzards and canned them for the dogs. I simmered the bones from the "boneless" chicken and canned broth. Later, the same customer requested more chicken, 10 pounds. That brought down the cost of the chicken we kept and shared with our daughter and family to fifty cents a pound. If we cultivate more customers, it could be a money making operation. Would we do it large scale? no. But it pays for or lowers the price of what WE eat, tremendously.

Here is a family run operation about a couple hours drive from me.

https://windymeadowshatchery.com/

http://windymeadowsfamilyfarm.blogspot.com/

We also raise feeder pigs. So far, we have 2 customers who are happy to wait for a premium product. One bought a new freezer to hold the whole hog they purchased.

On the two feeder pigs we raised in 2018. We sold them for $4 a pound, hanging weight. It cost $1.05 per pound for processing, plus a kill fee. Then the cost of feed, not counting my time. We did make money on the pigs. We sold 10 pounds of the lamb for $10 per pound. It paid for the $85 processing. We had 40+ pounds of lamb for us.

https://www.backyardherds.com/threads/baymule’s-pigs-2018-herefords.37448/page-12

Hanging weight on Piper (the one with the most white) is 188 pounds.

Hanging weight on Poodle is 178 pounds.

Hanging weight on the lamb is 51 pounds.

We raise lamb, hair sheep. Lamb is frightfully expensive, we charge $10 a pound. I really haven't developed a steady market for the lamb, but haven't had a problem selling it either.

This is a few examples of what you can do, starting small and building your base. You can't be all things to all people. If I were to make a living at this, I would put my efforts into ONE avenue and specialize in that.

This is a great site on raising pigs. They started small and grew their market. They now even have their own USDA slaughter facility for their own hogs. They have their own breeding stock, raise, feed, slaughter and ship their own product. They use NO commercial feeds.

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/

I realize that you want to raise cattle, but I don't have sites for that. This will give you an idea of what you can do.

We live in an area where there are people who can and will pay more than grocery store price for quality meat, raised in a natural setting and not in a feedlot. Know your market.
 

greybeard

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From a similar thread on another board, comprised of people who actually raise cattle and make $$$ doing it:

Start a detailed spreadsheet outlining your input costs, your cows, calving schedule, etc. This is gonna help you gauge your profit and stay organized no matter which direction you take. They sell cattle specific software you can research. I like cattlemax.

Figure out if you’ll be selling select cuts of meat or whole or half beeves. Find a local USDA cert butcher that is capable of processing your beef. Your butcher is an extension of your operation, view him/her as an employee. Make sure you find a good one. That can make or break you.

Start a social media page marketing your product. Gauge the interest in your area. Unless they are a part of the whole grass fed/local food movement they probably have no idea what your talking about and you’ll have to put it in front of them and explain what you’re doing. You may not have a market in your area and end up with a freezer full of beef and no where to sell it. You’ll have to be a good salesman until you establish a name.

Search around and see if you have a CSA in your area, if not get some local farmers together and see if you can start one yourself. Preferably farmers that aren’t producing beef so you’re not competing. Maybe someone who produces vegetables or chicken or whatever.

If you do get interest through your marketing see if people are willing to pre-order so that you have a guaranteed sale for the final product preventing freezer burned beef laying around.

Direct marketing sounds great but it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s tough. You’re David going up against the Goliath that is commodity beef. Just start slow, butcher one steer year one and haul the rest to the sale barn until you build a fan base. A lot of people try and very few succeed.

Pay attention to the very 1st paragraph and the very last one.
CSA=Community Supported Agriculture.

Most who claim to make $$ on small ag actually do not, because they have not fully and honestly recorded and calculated the full input costs of their endeavors, and with cattle, it's all about inputs, which is the [only[/u] part of raising beef that you have any control over..
It ain't easy being a used cow salesman.

how a CSA works

It's basically, the same as so-called "corporate farming" but on a very small and local level.
Instead of being tied to the ConAgras, Cargills, JBS, Tyson Foods and Whole Foods of the world, you are being paid up front for your harvest (either at the beginning or part way thru growing season) by the local restaurants and markets and if the crop fails, you have no requirement to give them a refund.
 
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greybeard

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My understanding is to make a maximum profit on cow for example eventually they would be sold. Same with pigs, chickens etc. Is it always true you need to sell them for butcher to maximize profit?
No. Not always. It is true for what is known as stockers. Buy calves early in the year, put them on pasture and sell them as feeders later in the year so you don't have to carry them thru winter. It depends on what kind of livestock operation you are going into. Your cattle come from somewhere...some are sold as replacements, tho they could also have been someone else's culls.

For instance:
A breeder has a great line of momma cows....he looks at his records at the end of the calving year, and his bottom line calf producers get culled and sold because they aren't up to the standard he has set for his herd, but for many ranchers, they'll fit right in their commercial herds. And, that makes a lot of financial sense for both parties. Let someone else (the seller) do the hard part; raising the animal, going thru the headache of getting a heifer's first calf on the ground alive, finding out if and how well she can raise it. The breeder sees some trait he doesn't think fits his operation and off to market she goes, usually at a local salebarn, where either a feedlot buyer purchases her or a local farmer says "Hey, she'll work for me!" and he outbids the order buyer as a "back-to-farm animal. If he's lucky, she's also already bred to one of the breeder's hi $$ bulls or with semen from any of the hundreds of great donor bulls available and just like that, that farmer has great genetics right there on his own farm.

Another slower, more costly option is to raise your herd from scratch. Buy a few heifers or proven easy calving cows and either buy, borrow a bull or go AI and start raising your own herd and replacements. This, is very high risk for any of the reasons FarmerJan mentioned and you better have your ducks in a row and ready for he// on wheels when it comes.

Cattle.....I can't see myself starting with less that 50-60 acres of pasture and less than 15-20-30 females. Economy of scale plays a BIG part of the cattle business if your goal really is to make and maximize a profit. You can buy feed cheaper per any volume measurement if you buy it in larger quantities....same with hay. Same with fence posts and wire. And, many regions, states, counties restrict/prohibit whether a place qualifies for an ag tax exemption with cattle if you don't have enough acreage.
I have a neighbor right now, that is badgering me to sell him 3-5 acres so his place will qualify for ag exemption and he's offering me a great premium over what the market value is............that's how desperate he is to get his place under ag exemption. Being small in cattle, can actually COST you money if you are keeping track of all your inputs, which you would/should be doing since you already stated you don't want a 'hobby'.
 
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farmerjan

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Yeah, what @greybeard says. If you are thinking to move somewhere else, and you are not familiar with the climate, you have another total learning curve. It's a whole lot different to run 1 feeder per acre or 2 per 3 acres here in Va than what it takes out in the west where I have heard of 1 per 20 acres in the drier areas. Land costs are cheaper though....
Get a good job, save some serious money, and find someone nearby that you can go help on the weekends or do an intern program and make sure you want to put that much into a farm.
Hobby farming is looking better and better for us here lately....:idunno:idunno It's just an uphill battle with prices what they are and the horrible wet weather situation we have been dealing with. And it is all over this whole general area... there is mud and more mud and water where so many of us have never seen it this time of year. Check out some of @Southern by choice posts on her goats and @Goat Whisperer , they work together and have some joint and separate operations.... even many of the Texas members are dealing with the mud and mess.. and this is something that you can't just say, "i'm staying in the house today" cuz it's muddy or freezing or too hot or something.
 

babsbag

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And on the flip side you can come to CA where there is no water. Our rainy season this year has been about average for us, we are at 91% of normal, but many places are much lower. The state is going to start rationing water in 2020 to 50 gallons a day per person. I am on a well and so far no meters but those days are coming. Not sure what kind of allotments there will be for ag. I know our farmers in the central valley are going to be hit hard with a new regulation that requires a set amount of water to flow to the Delta so they can hopefully save the salmon. The state has an extensive water reservoir system that allows water to be stored from snow melt and rain and then used primarily for farming; there is no other way to farm in an area with no summer rain. They are going to restrict the amount of water that can be stored and restrict ground water pumping and flood irrigation. They say the cost of alfalfa is going to double, if there is any at all. Not good news when you own a dairy.

I guess I just talked you out of living in CA. :lol:
 

Mini Horses

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@Doug M -- So now that you have gotten some TRUE, maybe overwhelming, honest advice from those who are there, what are your thoughts?

Since you are new to the EVERY DAY drudge work, I agree with the "apprentice" at a farm ideas.

Obviously there are pro/con, for this life, from many. Several of us who had these dreams from a very young age are now in or close to retirement. We are still living our dreams, different scale. I've had farms for years. Some made money, some were just for "home" and enjoyment. Both have been good to and for me. My own goal now is to enjoy my dream and to produce enough income to "feed them", the animals I so adore, that is. Yep, I also have a "bail out" plan because one day I will need to stop. I even have a slow down "before that" plan. :rolleyes:once it's in your blood, you just know it's forever. For many it isn't farming for a livelihood so much as a way of life. That's me.
 

RollingAcres

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this is something that you can't just say, "i'm staying in the house today" cuz it's muddy or freezing or too hot or something.
So true! And you can't just take off to go on vacation. You'll have to make sure you make arrangements to have someone take of your animals while you are away.
 
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