Or, How the Hogs Spent Your Money.
This isn't the only green a hog runs through! As a matter of due diligence, I am outlining some of our expenses in raising these pastured hogs. The farm just started using QuickBooks this year to maintain business records for tax purposes and to also break out categories of expenses and income. In the interests of transparency, I'm sharing some of those with you today.
Feed is the heavy hitter; if any of you have raised kids, you know what I'm talking about. Imagine feeding 10 hungry teenagers. At once. I should put a revolving door on the feed room. The good news is, this figure could be worse; since the hogs eat out of our pastures, the amount of concentrated feed is lower. They still have to eat concentrate, since they can't get all of their nutrition from fodder, and they get vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that they need to grow well from feed. Feed is the line item I keep targeting for improvement. We still want to feed a quality pellet that doesn't have a lot of corn in it, but there are price advantages to buying larger quantities, and I am working towards that. We use one of these self-feeders during the critical growth period of the pigs. It is cheaper to buy a ton and a half of feed versus 10 bags here and there. When I find another one of these feeders and put it to use later this year, the feed company will come to the farm and pump the feed right into the hoppers, and that's the tipping point we want because: 1) 3 tons of feed is a very favorable price break; 2) loose feed that is not bagged is a favorable price break; 3) it's delivered! And pumped into the hopper! And your farmer's back isn't broken (neither is the bank).
As a sub-category, we have seeds, which I buy pretty regularly to give our hogs a very diverse, healthy diet. They love this stuff! Also hay, much needed in the winter while the pastures slow down and regenerate. This year, we're laying in a stock of hay as soon as we find a good hay man in the area of the new farm. Once again, buying in larger quantity will be budget friendly.
Bedding, such as wood shavings and straw, are a steady demand as well. With all the rain this winter and fall, the waste area (or courtyard, when I use euphemisms) where the heavy hog traffic became a deep, soupy mud hole. I know, because Almond grabbed the water hose and ran with it, and I got a good dunking in it. Not for the faint of heart. I have lobbed bales of straw into it, and they have sunk, never to be seen again. On the plus side, that is some rich, fertile looking stuff! Oh, yes, and we use straw and chips to keep young pigs snug, hogs warm in the winter, and for bedding for mom and her new litters. She'll make a nest that I refer to as the "hot dog bun" that the babies stay in, safe and warm.
We don't maintain a boar on the farm to keep our sows in the family way, so there is an investment for breeding supplies, aka "Boar in a Bottle". We are scheduled to have babies at the new farm in June. I helped!
Vet expenses. We don't need the vet often, but we're sure glad to see him when we do. He did the castrations on all the little guys, plus checked on the new mothers when he was done. This expense also includes all the medicines we might need but don't often use, such as antimicrobials and antibiotics; it includes vaccines, wormers, gloves, thermometers, and all sorts of other supplies. If anything unexpected happens, it's usually on Sunday night or during the holidays. It's a sort of Farmer's Murphy's Law thing. But over all, the hog are pretty healthy, and I've thrown out some out of date antibiotic that was never used. That's a-ok.
Equipment, such as fencing, gates, fence chargers, feed troughs, self-feeder, water tank heaters, hoses - really more odds and ends than you would imagine! Materials for building the pig palaces. An 85 gallon water tank which not only provides lots of water to the hogs whenever they want it, but - in the winter - also serves as a toy and exercise equipment as they knock it over and roll it through the mud and across the pasture!
Trailer maintenance - new tires, because if they are going to go flat, it will be on the highway with 3 large pigs in it. And a new wiring harness, thanks to the red pigs that chewed through the old one. Nom, nom, copper!
Piglets, because sometimes a litter from our own sow doesn't come to term, or there is a deadline for delivery and we have no hogs available of the right age. So we buy piglets from good, local farmers who pasture raise their hogs, too.
The annual pig roast, which is our way of celebrating another year of farming, the generosity of the animals, and our gratitude for our community. It's a good time, with lots of people, fine music, and pork, of course.
And finally, for the first time, Farmer Merry has gotten a paycheck from the pigs. I joke (but it is true) that the hogs have more money in their account than I do, but up until the last 2 months, it has all been plowed back into the care and operation of the hogs and the farm (see above). I am as thrifty, frugal and careful with their money as I can be without denying them anything they need to thrive, so they cut me a very small paycheck last month and this month. I bought books and groceries. And truth be told, I am very happy to be working for the hogs, and for you, the customers that I consider to be the board of directors for the farm.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.