Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finding the golden triangle

The farming version of the isosceles triangle.

I used to think about farming in a more linear way. More like a time line. Now I think of farming in more interesting geometric shapes.

Now I think of our farm systems are made up of interlocking/interdependent circles. The circle of the seasons, weather patterns, animal growth and reproduction, plant growth, decomposition, the wildlife on the farm and under the soil. It all fits together in an ever shifting pattern interlinked circles.
3-D circles.
When I imagine it I think of it in space time. 2 dimensions just seems too limiting.

Oh yes... I did start out talking about triangles. Best to get back to that.

The golden triangle of farming. That perfect balance between number of animals, cost of production, return from product that allows the farmer to make a living. Why a golden triangle? Because if one element is out of whack the whole thing falls apart and the farmer has to struggle to put it all back in balance.

For example: We fell into the more must be better way of thinking about our laying flock. We grew to 200 laying hens. We sold our eggs at $2.25/doz. We often had excess eggs which we could not sell and we would feed them to our pregnant sows for the added calcium and protein.
At the end of the day, we were losing money and we were working ourselves to death.

We had lost the golden triangle. So we scaled back with the help of a near miss tornado and some pretty severe culling. Now we have one little hen pen with 45 birds. They are just starting to lay consistently. Our feed costs are in line with our output of eggs. We don't have any surplus eggs now. In fact, we often don't have enough eggs for everyone that wants them. We are taking the advise of several of our egg customers and increasing our per dozen price to $3 in 2010. We won't be wholesaling to the feed mill anymore. Still our triangle is a little lopsided.
We're working on that. We plan to grow our flock of layers slowly. Stopping often to analyze whether we have created the golden triangle. At the point that we have just enough eggs to sell and feed ourselves balanced with the feed costs and housing costs we'll stop.

That will be our golden triangle for egg production. I'll keep you posted on how we're doing.

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