Meaties 2010 - A year in Review

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by bigredfeather, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    Last year I raised and processed about 150 birds. We put a total of 80 in our freezer, and the rest were sold to a friend of mine that helped butcher them. During the cold Winter months, I started to devise a plan to market and sell broilers to others. After many hours of discussing with my DW, we came up with a plan. We sent out 45 flyer with all our information on it, most of which where delivered to people w/ in a 5 mile radius of our house. It included a short summary of the operation and a order form. I was wanting to do batches of 100, three weeks apart. The plan was to have a deadline order date for each of the four processing dated I had established, 3 of them in the Spring/Summer and 1 in the Fall. All deadline dated where well before the processing date, which looking back, was a bad idea. I timed the deadlines so I could order the appropriate number of birds to satisfy the orders for that date. The first deadline came and went with only one order of 10. I didn't admit it to my DW, but I have to admit I was a bit dissappointed. Here I had developed this plan to do this and nothing came of it. I kept telling her, "Don't worry honey, it will pick-up." Despite only having this small order, I decided to go ahead and order 75 chicks. If nothing else, we would have birds to put in our freezer, is what I reasoned in my mind. That is why I started raising them in the first place. Second processing date deadline came. We were hoping for more orders, and ended up with 50 of them sold. Better than the first, but still not what I had in mind. In talking with the people that ordered, they had forgotten about the first date, and wondered if they could still get some for the first date. We told them there was still some availble (we didn't tell them we only sold 10). Then things started to take off. By the third date, we had almost all of the first sold and the second batch of 100 sold. With all 100 sold of the 3rd batch, I went out on a limb and order 150 chicks, which was more than I had ever done. We hoped to sell the remaining 50 after the fact. Three weeks before the 3rd batch, all were sold! Life was good! I built a Whizbang to aid in the processing, which was easier to justify, now having money coming in, and so many birds to process.

    Now we had a dilema. We had sold so many, we didn't have any for ourselves. We had a few customers ask about a broiler that was raised on soy-free feed. Having never done this, we decided to do a "extra" batch of 50 on a soy-free ration, that would be for us. After telling the customers that had requested them we were trying it, they were really wanting to try a few. We sold 15 of the 50. The feed was more expensive, and they didn't grow as quickly as we wanted, and went thru more feed than I expected. We charged $3 a pound for them, and ended up paying $.18/pound for the birds we kept, which we were very happy about.

    The deadline for the last batch came. ALL BIRDS WHERE SOLD, and we were turning people away. After some thought, I figured if I built one more tractor (I was already at 3), I could handle a batch of 175. It took no time at all, and all those where sold.

    We ended up processing 525 of them total and selling 492. The 33 that weren't sold either got beat up when plucking or where just not appealing enough to sell. I learned a great deal thruout this process, and I have enjoyed all aspects of it. I get a great deal of fullfilment knowing I am providing quality food for people. Not one time did I feel like I didn't want to go out and take care of the birds, despite having to lug 5 gallon buckets of water and 50 pound bags of feed about 300 yards. It was always the first chore I did when I got home. I would get so worked up the night before a processing date that i had trouble sleeping. As the season went along, each processing event got a little more efficient. By the last processing date, the average time from cone to chiller was 1 minute 36 seconds per bird. With only keeping 33 birds, I do have one more batch of 70 going right now. I am planning on doing those right before Thanksgiving, and that will be the end......for this year.

    Next year I am shooting for 700-800 birds. Over the Winter I am going to build another 10'x12' tractor, and retire my smallest one and convert to a brooder. After that, I will be able to do batches of 200. In an effort to get business, I sold my birds for $1.60/pound which I think is a bit low. Next year I may up it to $1.80 or possibly higher if feed prices continue to rise. I really wanted to do some Thanksgiving turkeys this year, but just never got it done, despite having some broiler customers wanting them. All in all it was a great year. Count down to 2011 Broiler season - 85 days!
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  2. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    I am so impressed! I was thinking of you the other day and wondering how this was going. Great update! how much do you think you made per bird just counting cost not labor?
     
  3. jaj121159

    jaj121159 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 27, 2010
    Northeast Nebraska
    I raised 50 meaties and butchered them last week. We sold 43. I had never raised or sold chickens before this year. Last night I was at a meeting and sold 82 of next year's chickens already. I nebraska though to sell through farmer's market, etc. I have to be licensed as a food vendor and the birds have to be processed at a state inspected facility. Calculated some ballpark figures for next year and am planning on raising 1500. Should make some money I hope.
     
  4. twister

    twister Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 12, 2009
    Mississippi
    interesting read. ( i am not in the biz of marketing---but it was interesting to read about your intuition/vigor/and persistance. ) Hope that in yrs to follow, your profit margin will raise exponentially.
    :)
     
  5. augustmomx2

    augustmomx2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 31, 2008
    Central Indiana
    Thanks for the info, its always nice to hear other people's experiences [​IMG] Let us know how next year goes!
     
  6. Brunty_Farms

    Brunty_Farms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 29, 2007
    Ohio
    That's awesome, I was wondering how this year would turn out for you. It's funny to look back on but I can remember those days of lugging 5 gallon buckets around and feed sacks on my shoulder, wondering when I can make enough money to buy a four wheeler. Well two years after saying that, I still don't have one.... however I did manage to get a golf cart for saving my legs and a 275 gallon tote I can put in my truck for water. Both a real life saver. The truck isn't four wheel drive which puts me in a bit of a pickle when it snows or gets muddy. All that hard work fuels the fire to do better and achieve more the next year around. I guess people really don't understand the cornish x's and are quick to point out their defaults because they don't have to go through what you are going through. The passion and sheer dedication that it takes to do what your doing is something that is simply missed by many people. When those chickens become the center of debate it's neat to see how fast they are defended and it's not because they are the best chicken in the world... because they are not... however it is because of the countless of hours that are spent caring for them and making sure they live the best life. All while so you can live a more full filling life and to have a better future. Bringing a commercial breed to the forefront of sustainability is amazing and it shows that consumers do want a better product that lived a better life. Until you've done it and cared for these birds you won't understand how good they actually have it. You did a good job this year and should be proud especially if your not near a big city because that makes it even harder.

    I kind of fell into the same predicament that you're falling into. Last year I had batches that were sold out way in advance and a few times I would hit two to three months in advance. One thing I have learned is that customers hate waiting... and they hate planning that far in advance. I will get to that in a minute but back on topic... this year I really wanted to get ahead of the game and have birds every 2 weeks ( year before was 200 every three weeks) This year I planned to do 300 every two weeks. Well it worked beautifully for the first couple months and I processed my first batch and like the year before we quickly became swamped in orders. So my reaction was I will just order more birds. So I ended up getting in 400 in every two weeks which I thought would take the pressure off of orders... it did not. I ended up doing 400 every week for 8 weeks straight in the dead of summer. I was not prepared for the amount of loss I endured. Out of 400 sometimes I would process just 275 which was a huge hit. I finally was caught up by the end of summer but after looking back at the books, I lost a lot of money. Was it greed? I doubt it, you will find out that once you get that "bug" to farm you willingness to please is greater than that of a dog and you will eventually feel like your working like one too if you don't learn how to say no.

    A word to the wise..... take it slow but stay in control. I found it easier to do 600 every two weeks instead of 400 every week. Which it turns out my mortality rate (hawks, foxes, coons, piling, DOA, ect) was about 4% when I raised them 600 every two weeks compared to 25% when doing 400 every week. It didn't take me long to figure, well just a summer, to know that you have to have complete control of what's going on. Even though I always thought I did. In the long run you will make more taking it slow than doubling production overnight.

    About convenience to your customers. Weekly processing is definitely the way to go, because you can move through many customers and you can do it quickly. For instances if you get chicks in every other week you will always have birds to process weekly. Do males at 7 weeks and females at 8 weeks. Honestly, if I was you I would focus on small batches and process weekly. It's amazing how customers react to a waiting list that's only one week long compared to 8. They tell their friends and they tell theirs.... and so on. I learned that you can lose your butt quick if you do big batches at a time instead of a steady flow all summer. Because if that one batch gets wiped out or grows to slow or whatever it could set you back all summer. I know I've had it happen.

    Good luck it's going to be interesting how the next season starts, wait until you tell your wife that you're going to do chickens full time.... that one always gets the look from family. The way your going it won't be long.... by the way, you never did come up this summer!! [​IMG]
     
  7. duckfat

    duckfat Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 30, 2010
    Michigan
    Jeff, it admirable you have made the plunge into full time farming. However, winters should be a busy time for farmers. What we do is add a seven foot snow blower to our Zetor 5211 and hustle plowing jobs up here in the Michigan UP. The dairy farm down the road rebuilds their tractors during the winter, and then focuses on their maple syrup operation in the Spring.
     
  8. Brunty_Farms

    Brunty_Farms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 29, 2007
    Ohio
    Ya, I here ya. Even though I don't have tractors to work on winter is still busy. I get all my work caught up in the winter and it's needed. My first "big boy" job was plowing snow in the winter for a guy. I was paid good and at 17 I loved it. Unfortunately I sold the plow and the truck but someday I would like to get another one. I'm right under Lake Erie and get pounded with lake effect early in the season and again in March.

    However winters are my time to relax too. I get about two months where I don't do much of anything (january and february) just because it's so cold and mostly everything is covered in feet of snow. That break is really needed though.
     
  9. Brunty_Farms

    Brunty_Farms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ohio
    Hey, are those tractors new that you built? I've seen the one but I haven't seen the new ones. I'm going to be building a few more this winter that are more functional and seen the inside of yours in another post curious to see what the whole thing looks like.
     
  10. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    Quote:I've have dreams of a 4 wheeler as well, but "business isn't that good", I'm told. I think I am going to take the junk deck of my lawnmower, and customize a small trailer I have for it. I will equip it w/ a 50 gallon tank and room to bring out the feed. It should make it much less work.

    I guess people really don't understand the cornish x's and are quick to point out their defaults because they don't have to go through what you are going through. The passion and sheer dedication that it takes to do what your doing is something that is simply missed by many people. When those chickens become the center of debate it's neat to see how fast they are defended and it's not because they are the best chicken in the world... because they are not... however it is because of the countless of hours that are spent caring for them and making sure they live the best life. All while so you can live a more full filling life and to have a better future. Bringing a commercial breed to the forefront of sustainability is amazing and it shows that consumers do want a better product that lived a better life. Until you've done it and cared for these birds you won't understand how good they actually have it. You did a good job this year and should be proud especially if your not near a big city because that makes it even harder.

    Well said. I couldn't agree more! It burns my butt when I read some of the post on here about how horrible they are, or how they are genitic freaks (Frankenbird comes to mind), and how they are so prone to death for no reason and leg problems. Other than my early batch, I lost less than 5% this year to flips or leg problems. 3% of my loses usually come on day 2 or 3 in the brooder, and in my mind, that is do to modern incubators hatching eggs that would not have hatched in nature because they were weak. Both of us, and many others, give this breed an excellent life, although short it may be. And what really gets me fired up is when people say that since the CX is used by factory farms, homegrown broilers are the same thing. WOW! That makes me mad just typing it. I won't go into any more, but we both know that just ain't so. Thanks for the compliment. That means a lot coming from someone who does what you do.


    I kind of fell into the same predicament that you're falling into. Last year I had batches that were sold out way in advance and a few times I would hit two to three months in advance. One thing I have learned is that customers hate waiting... and they hate planning that far in advance. I will get to that in a minute but back on topic... this year I really wanted to get ahead of the game and have birds every 2 weeks ( year before was 200 every three weeks) This year I planned to do 300 every two weeks. Well it worked beautifully for the first couple months and I processed my first batch and like the year before we quickly became swamped in orders. So my reaction was I will just order more birds. So I ended up getting in 400 in every two weeks which I thought would take the pressure off of orders... it did not. I ended up doing 400 every week for 8 weeks straight in the dead of summer. I was not prepared for the amount of loss I endured. Out of 400 sometimes I would process just 275 which was a huge hit. I finally was caught up by the end of summer but after looking back at the books, I lost a lot of money. Was it greed? I doubt it, you will find out that once you get that "bug" to farm you willingness to please is greater than that of a dog and you will eventually feel like your working like one too if you don't learn how to say no.

    Oh, I have the "bug" all right. And like you said, it isn't of greed. I felt horrible when we don't have birds for people when they want them. Honestly, I don't even think about the finacial aspect of it until after processing is done for the day, and pick-up begins. I don't do this for the money necessarily. Staring out, our goal was to put quality chicken in our freezer for free by selling to others, and that has been accomplished. Now it is more of how many peoples lives can we make better by offering a superior product.

    A word to the wise..... take it slow but stay in control. I found it easier to do 600 every two weeks instead of 400 every week. Which it turns out my mortality rate (hawks, foxes, coons, piling, DOA, ect) was about 4% when I raised them 600 every two weeks compared to 25% when doing 400 every week. It didn't take me long to figure, well just a summer, to know that you have to have complete control of what's going on. Even though I always thought I did. In the long run you will make more taking it slow than doubling production overnight.

    That is how I have approached this from day one. Although I didn't write about, I did broilers 2 years ago also. My first batch ever I started w/ 25. Did that twice, then went to 50, then 75, then 100, and next year I will up it a little more. With each incremental increase, things get more difficult. I can't imagine going from 25 right to 150. More feeder more waterers, and more feed and water to go into them was just the beginning. With us doing our own processing, that alone is a big adjustment. The last batch this year we did 150 of them(50 more than we had ever done at once), and I have to tell you that was a huge jump on the processing end. Luckily, we had plenty of help, and it went very well.

    About convenience to your customers. Weekly processing is definitely the way to go, because you can move through many customers and you can do it quickly. For instances if you get chicks in every other week you will always have birds to process weekly. Do males at 7 weeks and females at 8 weeks. Honestly, if I was you I would focus on small batches and process weekly. It's amazing how customers react to a waiting list that's only one week long compared to 8. They tell their friends and they tell theirs.... and so on. I learned that you can lose your butt quick if you do big batches at a time instead of a steady flow all summer. Because if that one batch gets wiped out or grows to slow or whatever it could set you back all summer. I know I've had it happen.

    That is a great idea! After reading this, my wife and I got to brainstorming and talking, and I think this concept will work great for us! It's so obvious, yet we overlooked it. In doing this, we will be able to process without any outside help, and the task won't be so overwhelming. And like you said, shorter waiting time for customers. We found we lost the interest of some customers after telling them it would be 3 or 4 weeks until the next batch. We also ran into customers that didn't have ample freezer space. With weekly processing, they could enjoy fresh chicken all the time. At the end of our brainstorming, we have already established weekly processing for next year, starting May 7th and run thru June, then again for Sept and October.

    Good luck it's going to be interesting how the next season starts, wait until you tell your wife that you're going to do chickens full time.... that one always gets the look from family. The way your going it won't be long.... by the way, you never did come up this summer!! [​IMG]

    My wife has been trying to talk me into already. She's sees how much I enjoy it, and knows how much I hate my job, and wants me to quit to do it full time. If we could make enough to "just get by," I would go for it, but I am going to have to bring in more to justify it. It would be a dream come true, for sure. If we can get everything else going on the farm like we are planning, it may become a reality, but there is lots of work to do until then. We have tons of ideas on things we are capable of doing to be profitable, it's just getting them all going and running smoothly. We are building a website right now which will include selling broilers, hatching eggs/chicks, and also for our goats and products from them. Eventually it will include Maple syrup, started garden plants, and eventually garden produce. Hmmm, sounds a lot like Brunty Farms. We'll see where it all ends up. One thing I know, I am ready and willing to give it my all, and make it work.
    I know I didn't make it up. Trust me, we wanted to, just didn't have the time. I never did get all my new roof on either.....and you didn't help! LOL

    Thanks so much Jeff. I owe much of my success to you and other on here who helped me out when I first got started.​
     

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