The Sadder Side of Farming

Some days farming is rough. This weekend was a portrait in frustration.

We have been waiting since May to have a tractor fixed.

2 months is a long delay!

2 months is a long delay!

It was fine for seeding and spraying to work the land and cattle without our big tractor, but we need this bad boy to get our silage off. The problem is it’s a less common brand of tractor and we have a heck of a time finding mechanics to fix it. We found one such mechanic but he took a month to come see the tractor. Then it has been 3 weeks waiting for parts…all the while our crop has matured and matured and matured to the point where we are pretty desperate to get going.

And then I ran over the family dog this weekend.

Sandy Dog

“Sandy Dog” as my kids called her.

Yep. I backed over our 14 year old, sweetest dog you can ever find. She didn’t die from the run over, she actually got up and walked away. Unfortunately though, she had a large mass in her mouth that wasn’t responding to our vet’s treatment, so it was time so say good-bye to our beloved Sandy.

And when, it rains it pours, we also euthanized one our horses; Graylie. She was a super well tempered girl but was lame in two legs and also not recovering. It sucks to put down a horse that is otherwise healthy. In terms of welfare, it was 100% the right thing to do, but it still felt very wrong.

So, yes I raise cattle for meat production, but no one on our farm enjoys death. We lost a couple of very dear members of the farm this weekend.

 

 

 

Making Hay

The family that hays together stays together!

The family that hays together stays together!

This weekend we made hay and had put it up in the loft.Farming requires a combination of strength and endurance to get the job done.

This weekend we were haying. First, we cleaned out 1/2 the loft pushing out loose hay and straw that had piled up over the years. The kids helped where it was safe to do so and then were relegated to very important jobs likes holding sunglasses and taking pictures. Yes, the bulk of the photos in this post were taken by my 5 yr old on an iPhone. I kept my good camera dust free and helped the kids feel included in our job.  Look at that mound of hay we pushed out of barn.

Mount Haymore.

Mount Haymore.

 

Moving square bales uses a pile of muscle groups and is a great all over workout. Here’s the lowdown.

Dead lifts- lift bales up to carry. Bales varied in weight from 45-70 lbs, so it’s a varied workout for sure.

Walking with an extra 40-80 lb. Bonus if you can farmer walk with a bale in each hand.

Clean and jerk to place bales

Press – Pushing bales into place on the stack

Quick dash back to the order end of the barn.

Repeat, repeat, repeat until you’re done.

 

How is farming a viable business??

I have been asked “How do farmer’s make  a living?”

 Here’s how it goes on our farm.   Most farms do not have a regular income stream. We are one of those operations. We are a family farm. The farm owned by my in-laws, brother in law and ourselves. We sell our products just a couple times a year and get paid based on market prices and quality for our products. Bills are mostly steady but we have our fair share of sporadic and unforeseen expenses – like the new combine we bought in fall 2013 that was NOT planned. On our farm we raise cattle, grow hay and  grain.  I’ll break it down by each category.

We are a purebred cattle operation. So get the bulk of our income from selling high quality seed stock the industry. That means we sell a few select cows every year through breed sales and we have an annual bulls the first Thursday of April annually. We do our best to breed sound cattle and take care of our customer’s needs. The annual bull sale is a real big deal for us. We sell 50-60 bulls with an average price somewhere around $4,000-$5,000 per bull. If you are curious check our farm website.

The bulls on display for buyers on our sale day.

The bulls on display for buyers on our sale day.

We also have a certain number of calves that we sell that end up in the product cycle to make beef. These are calves that aren’t the quality we want or cows that have ended their production cycle at our farm. We generally sell these cattle in October and February annually. We get market prices for these cows.

Summer is the season for haying at our place!

Summer is the season for haying at our place!

For our hay operations, we have 2 separate income streams. We lease some hay land to local farmers and we sell hay that we have harvested ourselves in the fall. Leases are paid twice a year. For the price of the hay we sell, it varies year to year depending on the quality of feed and how available feed is that year. So it’s pretty much supply & demand driven.

Here we are moving grain at -40 degrees in the winter.

Here we are moving grain at -40 degrees in the winter.

 

The grain operation gets more complicated. We pre-sell a portion of our our grain through grain marketing contracts through the futures market. This actually really big business!! We sell about a 1/3 of our crop before we harvest it, the rest we contract up after we have the crop off and a some we may sell straight off the combine to a local feedlot or elevator depending on the year and crop. The grain is delivered to the elevator for sale at various time of the year depending on delivery date negotiated in the contracts.

 

In Canada over nearly half of farms have operators that work off the farm. My mother in law works off farm and thanks to her, the farm made it through the financial crisis of the 1980’s.  My husband and myself all have off farm jobs that help with a bit of stability and in order to do extra capitol investments to make the farm more profitable before we settle into the farm. We will likely always have an off farm income to help with cash flow and stability.