Part-time or full-time farmer?

mysunwolf

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First off, welcome to BYH!!

I used to have 15+ sheep and also worked part-time off farm, part-time at home. With no one else in the family farming. Honestly, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you need that income, you should work. But I didn't give the animals the same good care when I was working off-farm. It was difficult to find any time to just sit outside and monitor them. When you're learning, it's even harder since you have to watch animals a long time to figure out what their normal behavior patterns are so that you can spot a problem in time to treat. I found a job that's 10-15 hours a week that I use to supplement all my farm and art income, and that pays for groceries that we don't grow or raise. Anything more than 30 hours a week became really detrimental to the farm. But my health is also not the best, so keep that in mind.

Our neighbor works as a mailman full time and keeps a flock of 50 ewes, some cattle, pigs, poultry, etc. But his wife stays home with the children and the whole group of them will care for the animals when he's away. That way they can spot emergencies and treat them before they have deadstock, and then he can come home and do the heavy lifting. It works out nicely in their case, though it does make it hard for them to do all the other farm projects life calls for--fence work, new fencing, building coops/sheds/barns, updating feeding/watering systems, corralling loose animals, etc.
 

farmerjan

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My son and I both work off the farm full time. But our jobs complement each other and my hours are crazy and vary from day to day and week to week. I am a milk tester for dairy farms and he works for VDOT. I will retire in about 1 1/2 years. We also "farm full time". We run 150 to 200 head of beef cow calf pairs. I also have anywhere from 2 to 6 dairy nurse cows with calves on them, and sometimes milk for the house, and usually have a few bottle calves at intervals. We make all our own hay, and he has a flock of about 40-50 ewes and keeps about 20 rams at any one time. They are White Texas Dall sheep. A hair breed that we raise the rams up for their horns to go on hunting preserves, and any young stock that doesn't make the cut are sold at different times of the year as lamb for ethnic holidays. We both also have some purebred chickens; different breeds for him and I. Plus we live in different houses about 5 miles apart. I also grow a garden and can and freeze most of the food I eat throughout the year. We raise all our own beef, chicken and lamb consumed.

Sometimes things do not get done as good as they should, but then other times we do just fine. Alot depends on the weather; hay season gets pretty tough, but right now between feeding in the mud, and just getting started calving, we are doing okay. We actually got the latest 6 new calves tagged today and moved to a back pasture with alot of stockpiled grass. The serious calving will get going in about a week or two. Have about 70 cows and 20 heifers to calve this spring, total.

We cannot afford to farm without the outside income to pay his mortgage and my rent and the payments on the 75 acre farm he just bought 2 years ago; plus all the rents on pastures. The goal is to have enough cows to pay all the farming related expenses, and to be able to put back some so he can buy a 150-300 acre farm to retire to by the time he is 55. He will sell the 75 acre farm then, and who knows what my health will be like in 10 years or where I will be living.
Unless you have some decent outside income, I do not see how anyone can just farm. I work with some very good dairy farmers and they are struggling due to low milk prices and high costs. Almost everyone I know has some other income, investments or retirement or something, or has a spouse that works off the farm to help pay the household expenses.
 

Baymule

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welcome to the forum. Glad to have you here, there are lots of very nice people here who will help you and answer questions for you.

You should do a feasibility study just like any new business starting out. Get a spread sheet going for expenses. Feed, hay, vet bills, cost of starter livestock. Do you already have a barn/shelter, is there goat/predator proof fence in place? Will you have to build these things?

Neighborhood dogs are the biggest killer of small livestock, followed by coyotes. What are the predators for your area? Almost ALL of us have Livestock Guard Dogs or LGD's. There are various breeds, if you get a pup, it will need training and time spent with it. You will have feed and vet expenses for your dogs also. One of my dogs swallowed a hickory nut last year, it lodged in his intestine and required surgery. $800 later, we took him home. Yeah, a goofball, but we love him.

You will lose livestock. They die. It hurts, we cry and pick ourselves up and go hug a sheep, goat or our dogs. So figure in losses on your spreadsheet. You may go several years where every kid lives, no does or bucks die, but there will come a time where things just happen. I am not trying to discourage you, just laying out facts.

Identify your market. Who is going to buy your goats? How will you advertise your goats and what competition do you have? What age will you sell them and for what price? What kind of goats are you getting? Are they registered pure breed, pure breed not registered or mixed breed? Are they meat or dairy goats?

Insurance. We have a farm policy. We sell lamb, pork and eggs, so if anyone gets sick or claims to get sick from a product from our farm, we are covered. Will people come on your farm, what if they fall down and hurt themselves? We have had our farm for 3 years and operate at a loss. We had to build a barn, all the fencing, chicken coops, plant grasses, etc.

I would suggest keeping your job to start with, especially if you have to build infrastructure of fencing. There are a lot of people who farm and work. It certainly can be done. I hope I don't come across as a Debbie Downer, I am a positive, happy person. I am just trying to bring up things you may or may not have thought about.

@misfitmorgan and her husband both work full time jobs and they raise goats, sheep, poultry, registered Hereford hogs and mixed breed hogs. Maybe she can add to this conversation!

I kept horses and chickens for years while working 10 hours a day, full time. I also raised a garden, canned, dehydrated and froze a lot of our food. I raised the chickens for meat and eggs. I raised ducks for the freezer. Now we are retired, so I added more animals, but they are not a full time, all day job.
 

babsbag

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I worked full time when I first got my goats but I never intended to make any money off of them. Then things progressed and I ended up building a goat dairy, just got it certified last week. I no longer work off the farm, but my husband does. I couldn't do this without his income, there is no way my small dairy will pay its bills and our household expenses too. I just want the goats to pay for themselves.
 

Simpleterrier

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This is an interesting topic I'm glad it started. Sometimes while reading on here u think everyone is a millionaire. I work full time and my wife stays home full time. But our animals have to pay for themselves. I sell enough eggs to pay for new chicks and feed so we get free eggs for our house. Last year the chicken price was high and i had hens hatch eggs so we sold roosters for good money. My goats I make a few hundred dollars. We have three does to freshen. And will sell most of the kids. Pigs I raise extra and sell to help offset the cost of the one I raise for us. Beef I have found it is cheaper to raise your own then buy in the store. I help bale hay in the summer for free hay. So that removes a big cost. I build every thing myself so that saves. Also I think about animal worth compared to vet bills. So not to have more in an animal then it is worth.
 

misfitmorgan

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@Baymule lists a lot of good points and things to think about. Farming is not for the faint of heart or those that dont have a good work ethic because it is work when you have to build fence, a shelter, make or move hay, clean out pens/stalls, process animals, band/dehorn/tag/draw blood/trim hooves...etc your livestock.

My DH and i both work fulltime off the farm and DH has been on OT for almost 2 months now. We just bought a new farm and moved this past October so we get to start over with not only zero fencing but also we need to clear the land before we can put up the fence.

Does our farm in general suffer because of our lack of time to do all the things we want to do? I would say yes. Normally our list of "NEED to do" is pretty short, this year it is ridiculous but it will get done. Beyond a lack of time is a bigger lack of money atm, buying a new house/farm in late late fall right before all the winter bills kick in is a bad idea unless you have a few thousand in your bank to help cover those unknown costs. Would we love to quit our jobs and just farm....of course, but that wont happen for a long time, if it ever does.

As bay mentioned we raise poultry, goats, sheep, and pigs. We also now have an orchard with 18 apples trees that will need pruned heavily, a 125ft grape arbor that needs pruned badly, we put in 1-2 acres of garden each year, we grow/harvest/bale/move all of our own hay, we own 7 dogs(1 is a LGD), i do all the cooking and we are not fond of boxes or tin cans so most things are from scratch, i do all the housework, we can/freeze food, process our own meat, grow mushrooms(thats new but fun), make wine and "stuff", row crop an acre of pumpkins, upkeep flower beds, normal outside stuff like mowing/weed whip, vend at the local farmers market, etc.

We also plan to re-stock our chickens and ducks this year as well as getting more geese and getting some turkeys.

Do we work from dusk until dawn....no. A big part of farming is planning, planning what will get done when and on what days....realistically. We make a mental list and decide what the most important things are that need done and then we do them. The list does get altered based on time, if we can do these 5 important things today vs 1 important thing in 2 days, we will generally do the 5 things first even if the 1 thing is more needed/important.

Now i'm just rambling.....:welcome
 

Mini Horses

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Yes -- MOST of us do work a job "off the farm". It is difficult to have a "family farm" now days that can truly support the family, financially. I am not into hundreds of acres of crops. Like many, I hope to support the expenses of the animals I keep thru sales of eggs, chickens, goat kids, raised pigs, some excess veggies &/or seasonal ones, having "cost & chemical free" for self and family. We do it because we LOVE the lifestyle and the essence of sustainable and fulfilling. Sometimes we do not get everything done at the time we want. But done, just the same, a little off schedule. Choices.

That said, I still must support that new tractor, a vehicle, real estate taxes, etc. Some years I get more than the animals expenses....whoohooo. It IS possible to make a profit (did it for years with my mini horses) but, at this point I am partly retired and plan to make that fully retired in about 3 yrs. A few more bills to pay out and I am home full time. Then, I will increase some farm income but, nothing that will leave millions for my own kids. :p I want to enjoy what I earn :lol:
 

Pastor Dave

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Welcome to BYH from the Hoosier state! :frow

A lot on here have to work full or at minimum part time jobs. Some are recreating themselves after retirement and doing this as a hobby.

My job keeps me mostly here on the property where I can work with the rabbits and make hay in my own time and still do ministry. It's time management. Small farms just don't sustain a family like in the past.

My plan is to sustain the family with meat that I can feed in a pinch without much or any grain products, raise veggies, collect eggs, and get milk from something more manageable than a cow. If things got real tough real fast and there was no electrical grid, how to survive, etc.
 
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